Teachers secure $100k DEP grant to repair natural area by Neshaminy HS

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has award­ed Neshaminy School District an Environmental Stewardship and Watershed Protection Grant (also known as the Growing Greener Grant) in the amount of $100,339.00.

This grant was estab­lished under the Commonwealth’s Environmental Stewardship and Watershed Protection Act (1999) with the goal of restor­ing impaired water­ways and pro­tect­ing them from non­point source pol­lu­tion through­out Pennsylvania. Three sci­ence teach­ers at Neshaminy High School (James Maloney, James Murray and Brian Suter) applied for the grant with approval and assis­tance from school and District admin­is­tra­tion in 2020. They pro­posed to use the grant funds to repair and improve the 120-acre Idlewood Environmental Station, a forest­ed area between the high school and Neshaminy Creek.


Established in the 1970’s, Idlewood has been used as a class­room exten­sion for sci­ence and phys­i­cal edu­ca­tion class­es. Multiple trails run through the area, which are used by stu­dents and the com­mu­ni­ty for activ­i­ties such as hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing and envi­ron­men­tal stud­ies. The NHS Environmental Action Club uses it for bird watch­ing, maple sap col­lec­tion (and maple syrup pro­duc­tion), and tree plant­i­ng as part of a refor­esta­tion and species diver­si­fi­ca­tion effort. Students have plant­ed over 100 trees over the last sev­er­al years and main­tained a data­base which includes growth rates and tree vari­ety. The area was closed for use in 2017 due to haz­ards pre­sent­ed by stand­ing dead trees, the result of exten­sive dam­age caused by the inva­sive emer­ald ash bor­er bee­tle. This not only pre­sent­ed a safe­ty issue for those vis­it­ing the area, but also envi­ron­men­tal issues relat­ed to soil sta­bil­i­ty and water runoff in affect­ed areas. Many of the dead ash trees are in areas on trails that lead down­hill to the creek.


With funds from this grant, the District will be able to fell and remove dead tim­ber, plant new native trees and shrubs to sta­bi­lize the soil and pre­vent soil loss into the creek, and improve trails to pre­vent addi­tion­al soil loss and safe­ly open access to Idlewood once again. The trail improve­ments will also con­tribute to improved water qual­i­ty by reduc­ing sur­face water runoff. A ten-foot wire fence will be added to keep deer out of the area and pro­tect the new plant­i­ngs. The area will be treat­ed as an “exper­i­men­tal for­est” that envi­ron­men­tal sci­ence class­es and clubs at the high school can use to study growth rates, bio­di­ver­si­ty and soil characteristics.

The three teach­ers are work­ing with District admin­is­tra­tion to secure bids and con­trac­tors to com­plete the work with­in the scope and guide­lines of the grant. The work could start as soon as this spring and sum­mer, with the hope of open­ing the area for stu­dent use in the fall once safe­ty issues have been mitigated.

This grant pro­pos­al received sup­port and pledges of assis­tance from a num­ber of local groups and indi­vid­u­als includ­ing Pennsylvania Rep. Frank Farry, com­mu­ni­ty mem­ber Joseph Franks, the Middletown Township Environmental Advisory, the Bucks County Conservation District and the Neshaminy Creek Watershed Alliance.