Schuylkill Center unveils new bird blind during Member Appreciation Day.
Last Saturday, the Schuylkill Center unveiled a new name for it’s 43-yearold bird blind in a special ceremony attended by 60 members and friends of our organization. And to share the new name, I’d love to share a story.
Cheryl Beth Silverman was a charismatic 24-yearold back in 1987. A lover of animals, she was often trying to rehabilitate injured animals from her neighborhood on her own — animals seemed to follow here everywhere. Her love of animals led her to become a vegetarian as a young teenager. Tragically, she was struck by a drunk driver that year and passed away way too early. Looking to keep her memory alive, her lovely parents, Art and Carol Silverman, now living in Warminster, came across a news article about the then-freshly opened Wildlife Clinic at the Schuylkill Center, coincidentally founded in the same year Cheryl Beth passed away. They have been supporting the clinic ever since.
Their first donation came in 1988, 30 years ago this year. Recently, the Silvermans honored the Schuylkill Center by offering a substantial contribution to the clinic to continue keeping Cheryl Beth’s memory alive. Ten percent of this donation will be drawn down annually for the medicine, food, supplies and staffing the clinic needs, allowing the gift to assist the clinic for at least the next decade. (In last week’s column, we introduced you to Rebecca Michelin, one of our newest staff members and the new director of the clinic.)
Looking to honor the Silvermans for their generosity, the Schuylkill Center decided to rename its bird blind, one of the most accessible features on our property, in honor of Cheryl Beth. It’s incredibly appropriate, as this is one of the few places at the Center where you are virtually guaranteed to see animals; on a walk out there Monday, cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays, a woodpecker and a sparrow, not to mention chipmunks, were enjoying the seedy feast.
Welcome to the Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Bird Blind, located at the end of the Widener Trail, which starts alongside the Visitor Center. Art and Carol, now retirees and grandparents, attended a special ceremony Saturday and pulled the cloth off the new sign to reveal its name to the appreciative crowd. Also in attendance was a good friend of Cheryl Beth’s from back in the day, a neighbor who had known her since the third grade. Now an adult and parent, she and her daughter revealed the sign that shares Cheryl Beth’s story in the bird blind. Everyone can read about Cheryl Beth when they visit the bird blind.
The blind includes small windows that look out onto a collection of platform and hanging bird feeders that attract a wide variety of birds. Needing to get the feeders above deer, who love to devour bird seed, Steve Goin, the center’s director of land and facilities, cleverly installed two metal “trees,” each with four metal branches, and from each branch hangs a bird feeder. The trees get the feeders above our deer friends. (He’s been urged by several people to trademark this handsome new design.)
The Widener Trail is an early feature of the Schuylkill Center. Built in 1975 with funding from the Widener Foundation, hence the name, the trail was the region’s first paved nature trail, allowing access to nature for everyone, including people confined to wheelchairs and those for whom walking might be difficult. A pond was built along the trail back then, allowing wheelchair-bound children a chance to search for the creatures that inhabit ponds. Apparently our staff had to travel to New England to find, in the 1970s, a nature center with a similar paved trail.
As the director of the Schuylkill Center, I, of course, would love to publicly thank the Silvermans for their loyal support and astonishing generosity over 30 years. In addition, the center’s thanks go to our land and facilities team, including Steve Goin, Sam Whittaker and Shawn Riley, for their incredible work repairing and renewing the 43-year-old bird blind, which had been compromised by decades of carpenter bees drilling tunnels, woodpeckers banging holes to get the carpenter bees and the twin nemeses of water and time.
Saturday’s event was part of a larger Member Appreciation Day, where we thanked the assembled members and friends for years — even decades — of support. Because we were founded in 1965, there is an astonishing group of neighbors and friends who have maintained their membership for decades.
We’ve been connecting people and nature for more than 50 years now, and we can only do this because of people like Art and Carol Silverman. Our deepest thanks and sympathies for their loss go to them, always.
Come visit the Cheryl Beth Silverman Memorial Bird Blind. Love to have you see it.
Mike Weilbacher directs the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Upper Roxborough, tweets @SCEEMike and can be reached at mike@ schuylkillcenter.org.