In the spring of 1945, a group of concerned citizens from the West Chester and Wilmington areas came together to listen to Clayton M. Hoff – the man would later become known as the founder of the small watershed movement in America – talk about the water quality of the Brandywine Creek.
Learning that the creek was not much more than an open sewer at the time, in addition to thousands of tons of soil being washed into the creek each year (diminishing the water quality and choking wildlife), the citizens decided to band together to create the first small watershed organization in America. They called themselves the Brandywine Valley Association (BVA).
Seven years later in 1952, citizens at the neighboring Red Clay Watershed wanted to improve the water quality of the Red Clay Creek, so they followed in BVA’s footsteps and founded the Red Clay Valley Association (RCVA).
Over the next few decades, the two organizations worked on many projects together, including the creation of the first landfill in Newlin Township (1954), implementing water treatment plans in Coatesville, Downingtown, and West Chester (1970s), and helping to jumpstart municipal recycling programs and encourage spray irrigation around the region (1980s).
In 1981, the BVA and the RCVA received a generous donation from Horatio Myrick and relocated their offices to the Myrick Conservation Center in Pocopson Township. With this move, the two organizations were able to centralize their watershed conservation efforts, establish a successful summer camp for children, and introduce educational programs to schools throughout the region.
After many years of working together and in the same location, the BVA and RCVA Boards of Directors unanimously made the decision to merge the two organizations together in 2015, forming what is now the Brandywine Red Clay Alliance (BRC).
Today, the BRC educates more than 12,000 students across the states of PA and DE each year, teaching them to be good stewards of their natural heritage through a variety of programs and events. They feature a number of hands-on programs such as their Red Streams Blue Program (established in 2006) and their annual Red Clay Valley Clean Up.
“BRC is proud of our history and all that we have accomplished in the past 75 years,” said the BRC’s Executive Director and CEO, James Jordan. “Much has changed since we were founded in 1945, but there is still much work to be done. BRC continues to be an innovative, solution-oriented leader in watershed conservation and environmental education. We were founded in unprecedented times during WWII, and continue to adapt and advance our conservation mission during these challenging times.”
Additionally, the BRC works with local governments, municipalities, and businesses to prevent pollution, and has been instrumental in the creation of other organizations, such as the Chester County Conservation District and the Chester County Water Resources Authority.
“BRC’s efforts to create a community and awareness around the preservation and protection of our region’s natural resources, streams, and watersheds has become a cornerstone of Chester County’s values,” said Chester County Water Resources Director, Janet Bowers.
BRC also takes care of hundreds of acres of local land held in conservation easements in the region, including their own Myrick Conservation Center. The 318-acre Myrick Conservation Center is not only home to the BRC’s main offices, but is also used for a variety of outdoor educational programs, agricultural crops (such as sunflowers, sorghum, corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa and hay), and for public enjoyment of trails, picnicking, bird watching, and relaxing. The property also contains historic structures, such as a Quaker barn which features the only wood silo remaining in Chester County that dates back to the 19th century, and a springhouse from the Revolutionary War period.
BRC continues to honor their past and look forward to another 75 years of success!
Follow them on social media (@BrandywineRedClay) and check out their website for more information about their educational opportunities and other programs: http://www.brandywineredclay.org/.