On June 3, 2021 just outside The Nature Place at Angelica Park, Kim Murphy, President of Berks Nature delivered the following remarks before members of the staff, board of directors and city officials as it was announced that Berks Nature will be the beneficiary of a $28.5 million gift. The organization held a small groundbreaking for a phase 2 addition of a rooftop deck and classroom to The Nature Place.
Bold new vision and future for Berks Nature and the environment in our community
“I am so proud of the way our staff and board weathered this past 18 months. We did some amazing things last year, continued to protect land, worked hard on restoring watersheds, working with farmers to improve management practices on their farms to protect water. We kept our Nature Preschool open and created a Camp for School program for families who needed help with virtual learning. Our trails and preserves remained open for members of our community to connect with nature during an unprecedented pandemic. Our volunteers continued to monitor water quality and plant thousands of trees, and our community gardens remained open for City residents to grow the fresh food they needed. We did this all following scientific guidance as safely as we could.
Our board and staff also took the time to do some strategic planning and looking toward our future. Our new strategic plan outlines our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice; to climate change; to our community; and to a future generation of conservationists. In short, we seek to transform people’s relationships with nature.
We’ve outlined some bold strategies and vision:
Berks Nature will expand its environmental and conservation education programs. We want to be sure that every child in our community has an experience with Berks Nature through our environmental education programs. We want to have multiple locations of our nature preschool to begin to grow our next generation of conservationists. And scholarships are made available so there are fewer barriers for people to share in that experience.
Berks Nature will utilize the Nature Place (and our newly constructed rooftop deck and classroom) to expand its educational programs, increase profitability, and grow our community’s involvement in the preservation and appreciation of natural resources. We want The Nature Place to become a hub of environmental activity, community engagement and location for organizations to meet.
We will invest in and grow our human resources to facilitate the organization’s growth. We have been understaffed for many years and now look to build our staff to the level we are working and to where we want to go.
Berks Nature will increase, and strengthen the funding of the organization. Our focus here is on diversifying funding so we are able to address mission related needs before us with adequate funding.
Berks Nature will continue to become more diverse and inclusive, with particular attention paid to urban BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities. We look to be active in and include and nurture our urban communities to become involved in our organization, take responsibility for nature in their community and pursue conservation as a career path.
We want to expand and grow the engagement of our community with nature. We will increase opportunities for individuals and groups to connect with nature, advocating for a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.
And, Berks Nature will expand and grow our land protection, watershed restoration and recreation activities. We want to encourage others to make a lasting impact on our environment through best land use practices, land and wildlife/habitat protection, watershed restoration and protection. We want all open space and agricultural land identified in the Berks County 2030 Comprehensive Plan to be permanently protected by conservation easements or outright purchase. And we want to see that trails connect to key hubs and preserves.
To achieve such an ambitious vision, it will take resources.
Human resources, financial resources and capital resources.
Since the opening of The Nature Place in 2017 we identified a need for a covered structure to accommodate large groups of children for field trips and large groups of individuals for programs. We engaged the designers of The Nature Place, GWWO architects out of Baltimore Maryland to design a second floor rooftop deck and classroom that will in total accommodate around 300+ people.
GWWO Architects, Inc. designed an environmentally sensitive building addition that would meet the needs of Berks Nature and the community. Barry Isset and Associates serves as our civil engineer and Burkey Construction will be the builder.
Berks Nature is so fortunate to work with many interested and supportive donors and volunteers over the years. For the past 45 years, gifts and grants ranging in size from $5.00-$1.5 million have supported our work. Our most recent $4.2 million capital campaign to build The Nature Place demonstrated a collective effort on behalf of our community to support our work. The relationships we build with our donors and volunteers is important and critical to the success of our mission and we enjoy these personal friendships immensely.
We are pleased to share that we will be the beneficiary of a 28.5 million dollar gift. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.
$3.5 million will be dedicated to the second floor addition of our rooftop deck and classroom at The Nature Place.
$25 million will be given to the Berks County Community Foundation to create the Berks Nature Endowment Fund and will benefit Berks Nature’s operations in perpetuity.
This endowment gift will enable the organization to have additional operating income to address the sustainability of the organization for the long term. In addition, this will put the organization in a position to address many of the initiatives in our newly approved strategic plan and help meet the ever-changing needs of our community. We are grateful to the Community Foundation for their help in bringing this gift to fruition. While grant writing and fundraising will always be part of the culture of our organization, this gift will allow us to essentially “catch up” for years of underfunding and stabilize the organization well into the future, positioning us to consistently exceed expectations in our work and impact. We are so grateful for this bright future. Our organization deserves it, the environment deserves it and we look forward to working at a level that matches the level of confidence this donor and all of our supporters have in us”.