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It’s Friday, Sept. 30. As hurricane Ian approaches the question is will the borough flood this weekend? The answer – yes. I speak to the experts on why it’s happening and what we can do about it. Organizers plan for a rainy OutFest and we pour a little out for one of my favorite West Chester events. That’s ok because there are butter boards and pumpkin pie lattes to get us through. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
Brace yourself. The floods are coming.
You don’t need a meteorology degree to call this one. With Ian making its way up the coast and two days of rain in the forecast it seems all but inevitable streets will flood again. But why does this keep happening and what, if anything, we can do about it? I turned to the experts.
To get a better sense of the problem, I caught up with West Chester University Assistant Professor of Biology and Sustainable Advisory Committee member Dr. Megan Fork. Megan, who joined the university last fall, and her students have been working to assess the health of Goose Creek. She also had students review (and clean up) the Borough’s rain gardens. (Her research specialty just happens to be urban stream ecology and restoration. Score.)
So, Dr. Fork, give it to me straight – how bad is it?
“We have a water quantity problem and a water quality problem,” explains Megan. The (sorta) good news? So apparently does most every other urban stream in the world.
The quantity problem. This is clearly the most visible part of the problem – just ask anyone stuck on Gay Street after significant rain. Think of the area as a forest, Megan tells me. “Look at the landscape before West Chester was here,” she says. “There are trees, brush, and soil to intercept the water – it still gets to the stream but it is all slowed down.” Since settlers began developing that forest hundreds of years ago everything we have done has served to move the water to the streams as fast as possible, she explains. Gone are the trees and native growth in their places: pitched roofs, roads, and gigantic parking lots. That massive influx of water into Goose Creek is what causes the southeast quadrant to flood each time we get significant rainfall.
The quality problem. Flooded roadways are only one consequence of all these impervious surfaces. Sinking water quality is another. “The rainwater moves along the way picking up the stuff in the streets, trash, oil from the cars, poop from your dogs – and carries it as quickly as possible into the stream,” says Megan. That stuff gets dumped into the waterway adding contaminants and messing with its nutrient balance. Scientists watch two nutrients, in particular, to better understand a waterway’s health – nitrogen and phosphorates. Megan calls it a “Goldilocks situation” because streams do want some of both of these nutrients – just not too much. Too much and you get algae blooms. Decomposition of that algae uses up the water’s oxygen. No oxygen. No fish. No seafood. No crab cakes, oyster shooters, baked sole. I think you get my point.
So, great. Is there anything can we do about it?
When you are in a heavily developed area like the borough it is hard to find a single needle-moving project. Instead, Megan says you want to look for many small ways to slow that progression to the streams. Things like residential rain gardens, riparian restoration, and bioswills.
“Plants and trees are our allies,” says Megan. When planted along the side of streams they help stabilize the banks and keep them from eroding. They are like “little pumps that take the water out of the ground,” she says.
Borough Arborist and Goose Creek Alliance co-founder Mike Dunn would like to see a whole watershed solution. This would require the Borough to collaborate with neighboring townships like West Goshen and Westtown where greater opportunity exists for large-scale projects. One area, in particular, being targeted for improvements is the 12-acre lot behind the now demolished Spellman building.
“Absolutely it would be better if we were working together,” says Megan who sits on the Goose Creek Alliance board. “We all live downstream from someone.”
According to the USDA over 10 percent, or 13.5 million, U.S. households experienced food insecurity at some time in 2021. That number is higher (12.5%) if you look at households with children. That’s more than 1 in 10 people and that’s before the end of the universal free school lunch program and before inflation hurtled food prices up 13%.
West Chester is far from immune. Earlier this summer I reported on increased demand for food banks and pantry services. The challenge for workers in this field is how do you get food to those that for whatever reason – immigration status, income requirements, pride – prevents them from seeking help? It’s something the West Chester Food Cupboard has been thinking a lot about.
“We are aware some people may not be comfortable coming to the Food Cupboard for a variety of reasons,” says Fiona Allison, West Chester Food Cupboard volunteer, and board member.
That is why on Monday the Food Cupboard is opening for the first time a Food Cupboard Express, a full on-site shopping experience that is open all.
The Cupboard Express will be “slightly pared back” from the full in-house shopping experience (also back) that is available to qualifying residents living in the West Chester Area School District but it will still include a robust mix of fresh produce, baked goods, and pantry staples. Shoppers will enter at the front of the building; give their zip codes and grab a cart. You are allowed to take up to two bags of groceries per trip – but there is no limit on the number of visits someone can make.
“We want this to be an easy, friendly experience,” says Fiona. The Cupboard Express will be open twice a week – Monday and Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.
The West Chester Food Cupboard isn’t the only one thinking of ways to ease the burden while lessening the stigma associated with assistance. Earlier this year, the West Chester Senior Center opened its Corner Cupboard. An onsite food pantry with a grocery store-like collection of fresh fruits and vegetables, pantry staples, pre-made goods, and even cat and dog food available monthly, the Corner Cupboard is open to the Center’s nearly 1500 members.
Members cue at the door of the Cupboard which is located toward the back of the center and dictate their list for the week. Volunteers then grab and bag the items. They even offer up suggestions.
“You need eggs or milk?” a volunteer asks after stuffing the requested box of cereal in a bag.
Having the pantry at the Center allows members to pick up a few items while catching up with friends or waiting for an exercise class to start. Bonus – gone is the stigma of having to visit a food bank.
“We do seniors. People are comfortable here,” says Executive Director Kathy Sullivan of the Cupboard’s success.
Mark your calendars: Gay Street Closure Public Presentation on Wednesday
After more than two years of debate we will soon get to see professional suggestions as to the best way to close Gay Street. Earlier this summer, consultants Traffic Planning and Design were asked to evaluate the current situation and envision two scenarios: one where the road is closed part-time (Friday-Monday) and the other, a permanent seasonal closure. For each they were to address things such as trash collection, delivery logistics, traffic management, and pedestrian safety. The big reveal is planned for Wednesday, Oct. 5, 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Borough Hall. See you there.
What a mess. Earlier this month West Chester Police responded to several concerning incidents reports. On Sept. 13, Orlando Falvo of Coatesville was arrested for driving under the influence with a young child in the car. To further secure his “guardian of the year” status, he proceeded to physically and verbally resist officers. He was eventually taken into custody. On Sept. 14, West Chester resident Cesar Martinez-Degante was arrested on stabbing suspisions. He dropped his knife as police approached, but they were not fooled and Mr. Martinz-Degante was arrested for aggravated assault and related charges. Then on Sept. 17, WCPD stopped New Jersey resident Jumanee Mcgee for an open container violation on the 50 block of W. Gay Street. He made things better by publicly arguing the validity of the charges and injuring an officer in the process. I am kidding he did. Mr. Mcgee was arrested with additional charges and the officer was taken for medical treement for his knee.
It’s gas-y in the borough. Just before 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning West Chester Borough Fire Department began investigating what would be a series of smelly calls. The first was an odor investigation on E. Miner Street that led to some early morning munchies. That was followed by a couple of calls concerning potential gas leaks at nearby residences. Fortunately, all calls were resolved without incident.
Time to start a 9 p.m. routine. West Chester police responded to the report of a burglary on the 100 block of Magnolia Street. Victims reported being awoken to find a black male dressed in black rummaging through their belongings. If you have any information about this incident, please contact the WCPD at 610-696-2700.
Mail delivery may be delayed. Perhaps you have noticed blimps in the previously untarnished “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” delivery record of the U.S. Postal Service? Well, it is all due to a staffing shortage. According to a recent post on Nextdoor, the West Chester Post Office is once again down workers and has been rotating routes to make sure no one goes without service for too long. While permanent solutions may be a 10-year, $50 billion cash infusion in the future, there are a few things you can do now.
- Get the USPS app which will show you a picture of the mail you are supposed to get (or not) that day.
- Put a hold on your mail and pick it up yourself at Airport Road. Not exactly convenient but an option especially if you are expecting something time sensitive.
Congratulations to West Chester University biomorphologist Frank Fish who was recently awarded a 2022 Ig Nobel Prize for his research on why ducklings swim behind in a line behind their mother. The Ig Nobels recognize science that makes people laugh, then think. (You learn something new everyday.)
Also high fives to Rustin and Henderson high schools which were listed among the top 50 schools in the state according to Niche, an online school review site. According to the website Rustin ranked #20, Henderson #38, and East came in just outside at #55. The ratings take into consideration a variety of available U.S. Department of Education data from SAT scores to graduation rates as well as student and parent reviews.
And, a whole round of golf claps to Rustin sophomore Sam Feeney who earlier this week took first place in the Chest-Mont Boy’s Golf Championships with an impressive win over Downingtown West’s Nick Gross – one of the country’s top amateur players. Also, congratulations to East’s Thomas Baschoff who secured his spot with a clutch birdie on the 18th hole – and to all the West Chester golfers who will be moving onto the district tournament.
Finally, a shout out to Pizza West Chester on hitting 10K followers on Instagram. No website, no phone, random hours, and a cash-only business – just pizza amazing. (So I’ve been told. I haven’t tried it but I want to. I really do.)
A good to see you again to OutFest. That is right, after a very emotional week, the Borough’s celebration of National Coming Out Day (not on Coming Day) is returning – albeit in a slightly different format than was originally planned – but yes, there will still be drag queens.
A rally has been scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. at (note the change) the Chester County History Center. It will be followed by a March downtown and an afterparty at Split Rail Tavern. Borough Council President Michael Stefano issued a statement concerning the rally.
“I would like to publicly announce my support for this event. Members of Borough Council voiced their support for the LGBTQ community, and this will be an event aimed at showing that support through pride in the community. West Chester is a safe and inclusive place for all,” the statement read.
He went on to condemn any and all threats of violence. “Threats of violence and intimidation are not what our community stands for and will not be tolerated,” he said.
Also, hello to the sly fox on Church Street. No, it’s not a new bar but a literal red fox that pranced south down Church street as I chugged north up the hill on my morning run. He seemed to be wearing a collar of some sort. I’ve seen him before but never so close. If you are the one responsible for the collar, WebMD would like you to reconsider your choices.
This week let’s pour a little out for the Benchmark Twilight Cycling Classic. Yes, we’ve all suspected it, but it’s official. After 15 years, the National Criterium Series is exiting the borough for good.
“I can confirm that the criterium will not be returning,” said Greater West Chester Chamber President Katie Walker. USA CRITS, the professional racing organization that schedules the events, has been pushing host cities to commit to weekend-long events something West Chester is not prepared to do at this time.
“In addition to the challenge of the logistics of closing down the entire downtown for a full weekend, a full weekend would require a significant increase in sponsor funds to cover increased costs to run an expanded event. With sponsor funds seemingly at max capacity, it was necessary for the Chamber to step back from running the event,” said Katie.
Also, all our best to Sue Cornelius. West Chester East’s Athletic Director hung up her sneakers on Friday after 36 years of teaching, coaching, cheering, organizing, and mentoring. Sue started her career with the West Chester Area School District as a health and P.E. teacher at Stetson Middle School. Eighteen years later, she accepted the position at East – and in doing so became the first female athletic director in the WCASD and the Chest-Mont League.
“What I love about Sue is her genuine joy for supporting kids. We’ll truly miss her in her role, but I know that we’ll see her on the field sooner than later,” share Assistant Superintendent Kalia Reynolds via Twitter.
Finally, say goodbye, or rather, see you later to the West Chester Public Library’s Octoberfest Open House. Originally planned for Saturday, it has been moved to next week (Oct. 8) on account of the pending rain. Note registration is required and space is limited.
Pay it forward.
Ready, set, clean out those closets! The Fern Hill PTO wants those barely worn heels, sandals, sneaks, and dress shoes taking up space in the back of your closet. Silhouettes that went out of style and haven’t quite returned again. Check. Sale shoes that were too good a deal to pass up but never quite fit right. Check. Nearly new dress shoes your boys wore once before outgrowing them. Check. Check. Any style. Any size. Any season. (Just make sure they are in new or nearly new condition – no holes, tears, or lots of wear. These are being resold).
“We know that most people have extra shoes in their closet they would like to donate – we just need to find them,” said Fern Hill PTO Co-President Heidi Mulherin.
How it works: Fern Hill inspires you to clear out your closet. Funds2Orgs, a nonprofit that helps micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, pays by weight for the shoes collected. The PTO takes the money and uses it to fund field trips, school assemblies, and classroom supplies. Funds2Orgs takes the shoes and distributes them to its entrepreneurial partners. The partner sell the shoes and uses the money for food, clothes, and housing. It’s a hard stepping circle of giving.
The goal: Collect 2500 shoes by Oct. 28.
How to help: Donation days have been planned for tomorrow, Oct. 1, from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. at the West Goshen Township Building, Oct. 8, and Oct. 22 from 9:30 – 11:30 a.m. at Fern Hill Elementary School.
If you can’t make any of those dates, you can reach out to Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a pickup.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a few soccer games and I must dig out our fall clothes. It seems I have once again pushed it one week too long. Oops. Beyond that, I think we are going to have to see what happens with this rain. I’d like to try and get over to the OutFest Rally (now at the Chester County History Center.) Although, don’t hate me but, snuggling up for a movie fest on the couch is sounding pretty good too.
Looking for indoor fun? – The always hilarious Better Than Bacon is playing at Uptown tonight. Follow that with a pumpkin pie latte and a Carlino’s DIY butter board for a TikTok-worthy worthy night inside.
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Mark your calendars:
- Sept. 30 – WCU Symphony Orchestra Concert, Emilie K. Asplundh Concert Hall, 8:15 – 9:45 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.
- Sept. 30 – Better Than Bacon: Improv Comedy, Uptown Theater, 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance/ $30 at the door.
- Oct. 1 – Fern Hill PTO Shoe Donation Drop Off, West Goshen Township Building, 9 a.m.- 2 p.m.
- Oct. 1 – Flannel Fest, Highland Orchard, 12 – 7 p.m. Food, games, drinks, flannel, live music and adoptable pups – what more does a fall festival need?
- Oct. 1 – OutFest Rally, Chester County History Center, 2 p.m. Rally followed by a march through town and after party at Split Rail Tavern. This is a free event. After party begins at 4 p.m.
- Oct. 1 – Luca, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 4 – Witches of Pennsylvania: Occult History and Lore (Virtual), 7 – 8 p.m. This is a Chester County History Center “Pay as You Wish” event. Registration is required.
- Oct. 5 – Gay Street Closure Open House and Future Plans Presentation, Borough Hall, 5:30 -7:30 p.m.
- Oct. 5 – Chilling West Chester: A Dark History Walking Tour, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Chester County History Center. Join for true tales of murder, mischief, and misadventure. Note: this 90-minute walking tour is not appropriate for children. Tickets are $18 and nonrefundable. This presentation was very successful last year and has been brought back for lots of dates. This is the first but it will be offered 22 times in October and early November. Visit the Chester County History Center website for a complete list of dates and times.
- Oct. 6 – Yoga in Everhart Park, Everhart Park, 6 – 7 p.m. Classes are $5 and all proceeds go to support West Chester Parks & Rec.
- Oct. 6 – Write Here, Write Now, West Chester Public Library, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Event is free but registration is required.
- Oct. 7 – West Chester Gallery Walk, Downtown West Chester, 4 – 8 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 7 – Flyers Town Takeover, 6 – 7:30 p.m. Jack Loew Plaza at 44 West, Gritty and friends will be there.
- Oct. 8 – Coffee in the Park, Everhart Park, 9:30- 11:30 a.m. All proceeds go to support Friends of Everhart Park; Coffee $4; tea, decaf, juice boxes, and granola bars are also available.
- Oct. 8 – Fern Hill PTO Shoe Donation Drop Off, Fern Hill Elementary, 9:30 a.m.- 11:30 a.m.
- Oct. 8 – Oktoberfest Open House, West Chester Public Library terrace, 1- 4 p.m., Enjoy free bratwurst, hotdogs, and pretzels, along with a craft beer and wine cash bar. Plus, a make-and-take craft for the kiddos!
- Oct. 8 – Outdoor Movie Night: Hocus Pocus, Marshall Square Park, 7 – 9:30 p.m. This is a free event. Popcorn and candy provided. Costumes encouraged. Bring chairs and blankets.
- Oct. 8 – Jungle Cruise, West Goshen Community Park, 7:30 p.m. This is a free event.
- Oct. 9 – West Chester Chili Cook-Off, Downtown West Chester, 12 p.m.- 4:00 p.m. Gates open at 10:30, chili eating begins at noon. Wristbands are $10 in advance; $15 at the door.
- Oct. 9 Botanical Watercolor Class, Pine + Quill, 2 p.m. Class $65, Registration required.
- Oct. 9 – Humphry Marshall Birthday Party, Marshall Square Park gazebo, 2-3 p.m. Cake will be provided.
- Oct. 12 – The Shadow of Humphry Marshall: Delaware Valley Horticulture in the 19th Century (virtual), 7-8 p.m. This is a Chester County History Center “Pay as You Wish” event. Registration is required.
- Oct. 12 – Haunted Tales Dinner, The Social Lounge, 6 p.m., 3-course price fixed menu followed by haunting tales of West Chester. $42/plate. Can’t make the 12th? Also available on the 19th, 26th, and Nov. 2nd.
- Oct. 13 – Simplify Weekly Meal Planning, West Chester Public Library, 7-8 p.m. Event is free but registration is required.
- Oct. 14 – Food Truck Night, Fame Fire Company, 4 – 8 p.m.Food trucks, craft vendors, parking – what more could you want?
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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