A county park system re-opens, NJDEP sues BurlCo residents for starting massive Pinelands fire, and scientists talk air quality under COVID-19.

Flowers flash their colors through the fence of Greensgrow Fams in Philadelphia. [Photo: Kyle Bagenstose]

By Kyle Bagenstose

Is our middling spring weather a blessing or a curse? This weekend is perfectly “meh,” with unreliable intervals of sunshine coupled with temps hovering around 50 degrees. Then, mostly rain and cooler temps forecasted at least until next weekend.

On one hand, I yearn for those warm, glorious spring days to arrive. On the other, the lack of ideal outdoor recreation weather makes me a little less glum about not being able to hit the trails and campgrounds like I normally would be.

Today’s headlines and highlights

A few days worth of news to catch up on.

Let’s start with a dose of good news, as the Bucks County Courier Times’ James McGinnis reports that the Bucks County park system will re-open to residents on Monday. It wasn’t quite clear what the status of the park system was before, but officials are officially giving the OK for residents to return as long as they practice safe social distancing.

That’s probably welcome news for those in that neck of the woods, as places like Peace Valley Park near Doylestown are great assets. But, it should be said that the decision was not without disagreement, with country commissioner Diane Marseglia telling the BCCT she does not think the re-opening is a good idea.

Hopefully any influx of visitors will play by the rules and remain safe.

Seeking justice

A pair of interesting headlines this week as authorities seek to be made whole from environmental mishaps.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced this week it is filing civil charges against five Burlington County residents for starting the “Spring Hill Fire” last year, which burned through 11,000 acres of Pinelands. Chris Sheldon of reports that group is accused of starting a bonfire on private land that grew out of control and wound up igniting adjacent forests.

The state will seek $50,000 in restitution.

In Pennsylvania, authorities are also seeking a sum, albeit much larger. WHYY’s environmental reporter Catalina Jamarillo reports that the city of Philadelphia is seeking about $1.1 million from Philadelphia Energy Solutions to pay for the emergency response to the explosion at the company’s southwest Philly refinery last fall.

Some more good news

Frankly it’s been a rare few good days of feel-good news for environmental issues in the Del Val.

Jamarillo also reported on the area’s farmers markets. While it’s bad news that many are struggling to survive under COVID-19, it’s reassuring to learn that they are likely very hygienic options to restock your pantry, due to their open air settings and the fact that less human hands touch products through the supply line. Hopefully Jamarillo’s piece will help spur business.

Inquirer environmental reporter Frank Kummer also had several great pieces over the past few days. First is the news that our very own Delaware River was named “River of the Year” for 2020 by the national nonprofit American Rivers. I hadn’t heard of the award previously, and don’t know quite how prestigious it is. But, any recognition of the river’s health, history, and importance is fine by me.

Kummer also has a nice write-up of ways to celebrate Earth Day (Weds. April 22) despite the novel coronavirus, as well as data-based piece that found improving air quality in Philadelphia as motor vehicle traffic has drastically fallen.

The experts weigh in

Speaking of air quality, Johns Hopkins University had an interesting Q&A with Peter DeCarlo, a scientist and air quality expert formerly of Drexel University. I actually interviewed DeCarlo a few weeks back for a story I’ll hopefully soon have published with USA Today, and it’s clear from both interviews he’s a scientist’s scientist, focused on the facts.

The gist: air quality logically has to be improving in urban areas, but just how much needs more rigorous study that also incorporates weather data. But no matter what, we shouldn’t give ourselves too much of a pat on the back, and continue to work to improve air quality when our society does get back up and running.

Staying in the academic world, UPenn’s Kleinman Center for Energy Policy published a piece that explains how climate change could actually increase the risk for dangerous infectious diseases like COVID-19. My initial skepticism (I couldn’t come up with a logical connection) quickly eroded as I read why that’s the case.

More news and notes

  • Following a running theme of entities pushing for more public street closures to allow for recreational space under COVID-19, the Rails To Trails Conservancy has a guide on how to lobby local officials to do just that.
  • This Saturday marked a #CelebrateTrails initiative started by the conservancy to promote the use and protection of local trail networks. Lots of Philly-based groups, such as the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership, participated.
  • PBS has a nice video program on “Wild Crossings,” which highlights efforts in New Jersey to create pathways for animals to safely cross dangerous roadways. The section on New Jersey, which features salamanders in the Pinelands and bobcats in the northwest, comes in at the 14:00 minute mark after an opening feature on the Smokies.

And that’s the rundown of today’s environmental news in the Delaware Valley. See something we didn’t cover? Drop me a line at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with
Get started
%d bloggers like this: