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DCNR recognizes Chester County parks and recreation with second annual Green Park Award
DCNR is recognizing Chester County Parks and Recreation with the second annual Green Park Award for its oversight of Black Rock Sanctuary in Phoenixville. The award honors excellence in both efforts to connect people to nature and in sustainable park practices.

“Chester County’s challenge when it purchased the 120-acre sanctuary was to convert a former wasteland basin into an educational environmental park,” DCNR Deputy Secretary Cindy Dunn said. “The park boasts restored and improved wetlands, a trail for environmental education, and many of the features in the park are made with recycled materials.

“Our award recognizes the county for meeting its goals for sustainability while creating a park where residents and visitors can play, learn and appreciate the natural world,” Dunn said.

When Chester County acquired the sanctuary in 1997, the land contained significant quantities of coal silt dredged from the Schuylkill River. The county took the following steps:

  • Restored disturbed floodplain habitats;
  • Improved 47 acres of wetlands, approximately 15 acres of warm season grass meadows and four acres of wildflower meadows;
  • Created a 0.8-mile highly interactive interpretive trail that helps visitors understand the importance and critical environmental role of wetland habitats;
  • Incorporated environmental education components that meet the Department of Education’s goals for students K-12;
  • Added kiosks that hold interpretive signage and interactive displays are used for self-discovery experiences that reinforce environmental concepts and human/nature interaction;
  • Limited alteration of the land during development;
  • Reused existing site materials;
  • Adapted sustainable stormwater best management practices. The entire sanctuary is a closed system that captures and holds water from all incoming sources until the water is slowly absorbed by the soil or evaporated by the sun;
  • Recycled unusable materials. Twelve thousand cubic yards of coal silt was sold to a manufacturer that makes charcoal briquettes;
  • Used recycled products in construction, including decking materials and benches made from recycled plastics, roofing materials for kiosks made from recycled tires; and
  • Created a butterfly garden that introduces visitors to the beauty of native plants and their ability to draw birds, small mammals and butterflies into the home landscape.
“Our award-winner is an excellent example for other communities that want to make their parks great assets to their residents for healthy activity, as models of how to conserve and as a place for people to connect with nature,” Dunn said.

The award is co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society. Dunn will participate in a special tree planting and commemorative marker ceremony at the park on April 21 at 1 p.m.

The nominations were judged on their efforts to implement a number of green and sustainable park principles including minimizing disturbance of existing areas; natural landscaping principles; managing stormwater naturally; connecting people to nature; and integrating energy conservation and green design and construction practices.

Black Rock Sanctuary is located along the Atlantic Coast Flyway, which provides breeding and nesting habitat for migratory waterfowl.

For more information on DCNR’s Green and Sustainable Park Initiative, visit

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April 27, 2011

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