This building sits out in the parking lot. It was the original office building. It consisted of one desk, a chair and a few exhibits. Thus, the beginning of Tinicum National Environmental Center in 1972 when Congress blessed us with a wildlife refuge.
Name dropping, a few people that made this possible. We all know there are many unsung heroes to every story. Locally, Congressman Curt Weldon was a major force and Senator John Heinz was also supportive. This is why the name was changed to John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge after the senator was tragically killed when a plane he was traveling in collided with a helicopter in 1991. It happened at Lower Merion Elementary School. Many of us remember that sad day.
Then there is the big name. Allston Jenkins, along with other visionaries fought to preserve the Tinicum Marsh. A plague in his name is located on the original field office above. Mr. Jenkins was the founder of National Lands Trust. Here is a link to the preserves this organization manages.
This handsome fella is Antonio Cusano and you can find his picture on the wall just as you enter the Environmental Center to your left. Mr. Cusano lived a simple life in the Crum Lynn section of Ridley Township. He never married and had accumulated a good deal of money through smart financial dealings. He lived to age 85. At his death, he donated 2.5 million to the Department of the Interior for environmental education. His inspiration to do so was his love of the outdoors and the words of President John F. Kennedy, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country". The Cusano Environmental Center is named in his honor. There are great displays inside this facility and all of the interior special events are held there. When I was there on Sunday, a little girl about 3 or 4 years old was screaming with joy, I found a fish, she said, he's the cutest thing. He wasn't real but to her it was. It was great!
If you have roamed the paths at the refuge, I am sure you have seen this building. If I remember correctly, the conservation group installed this duck blind. The staff calls this structure the "Love Shack", he said. It was the first structure built. Cheers to blind love. It may also be the reason the refuge is closed after dusk. In my opinion, you get more action walking across the bridge just beyond the shack, more ducks hang out in the section of the pond.
I have taken a tour with this guide before at Laurel Hill Cemetery, I think his name was Mike, so I knew it was going to be a good informative session. What I did not know and I found out when the tour continued outside was he was a "Weed Warrior" and so was another guy in the group. That fact just enhanced our travels 200%. He hates garlic mustard! A woman in the group asked, what do you have against garlic mustard? Invasive, he said, as he plucked one out by its roots. We don't have the bugs that like to feed on it in North America, so it takes over.
He loves the sweet gum tree, it is native to our area. You know it, the one with those prickly balls that fall all over the ground. If you step on one in bare feet it hurts, yeah that's the one. According to our guide there are not many sweet gum trees in Pennsylvania but we have them in this area, so if you have one, cherish it. He loves them.
He also loves this plant. In a couple of weeks it will produce a beautiful flower. It is down by the duck blind bridge off to the right. I think he said, pink flowers will bloom.
I thought he was talking about the little purple flower that has a name with a pea in it. I liked that one. He was not, but he had a funny story about the purple flower. He had this plant in his garden on a corner property near a kids bus stop. One day a parent approached him and said, that is a poisonous plant you should remove it, he smiled. A few days later he observed the plant had been removed. I have a friend like that, she pulls other people's plants. I do not let her in my backyard.
I can't remember if he was good, bad or indifferent to the blackberry plant but he did say it was all over and will get blue fruit soon, and the birds love it. It has the white flowers now. Look for blue berries to follow.
He was very excited about the "rust" on this multi-rose plant. It is the orange stuff. The multi-rose is an invasive and the rust is blight that will take out that plant, so weed warriors and blight get along in this incidence.
Just down the lane was another strain of rose that would not be affected by the disease. He was happy to keep her. So roses and their thorns were not his issue just specific ones...invasive.
The Observation Deck is a great place to spot birds and take pictures, look again. It used to be a two story office for the Conservation Center. I don't know what year it transitioned over but a fire caused that decision. I am glad they kept the shell, I go up there every time I visit. My visit may never be the same, I will think I am in someone's office. They had a great view if they had a window seat. The barn swallows are probably the most excited that the people moved out. It is like a club for barn swallows now.
We took the path back to the Environmental Center know as Warbler's Walk or Path. It is the section during certain seasons you can hear birders making the swishing sound to draw out the warblers, they hang here. It is also believed to be the only section of the wildlife refuge to contain the original soil. At one time, this area was used as a place to take soil from and also dump soil. This is how many of the uninvited invasive species got here. The border of the refuge ended at the pipeline and has been extended over the years. The oil company had donated the land around the pipeline to the refuge. There was an oil spill some years back that caused an environmental boo boo that boomeranged into a bonus for the refuge. With those funds they have been able to expand the land that is preserved for you and me to enjoy and many enhancements including the boardwalk and Hall Road came into existence.
Also on that trail "Weed Warrior 2" aka a birder showed us a humming bird nest. I could not see it but almost every one else in the group could. So I took pictures in hopes it would show up. I saw it! I was so excited and my flash went off and the bird flew away. I am sorry to the one other man in the group who did not see it and to the bird that I disturbed. My apologies, here it is. It was very small and hard to see.
There was a lot more information about what the area was being saved from and the boundaries. It was a great tour and I highly recommend it if they give it again. I will let you know if I see it. There is always something going on there if it is not a bird walk it is a butterfly walk. Even if you take a self-guided tour you will see and something new. I have said it many times, we are fortunate to have the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in our backyard and all the staff, volunteers and Friends of Heinz Refuge, that make it such a great place. There are many that are grateful. They flock there.