On the recent Arbor Day (April 28th), members of the Earth Club and other student
volunteers planted Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) trees to help restore an 'impromptu' trail.
Hackberry fruits are a preferred food of the Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina subsp. carolina), and we're hoping that the trees will help serve the needs of the GNA's box turtle population.
Many thanks to all the students who came out to help!
Welcome to the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies (also referred to as 'the Gordon' and ‘the GNA’). The GNA occupies approximately
135 acres along the southeastern corner of West Chester University’s campus.
Established as a protected area in 1971, the GNA has since served as a refuge for local wildlife and native plants, and as a multi-use setting for researchers, nature lovers, runners, dog walkers, and people looking to get a bit of space away from the stresses of everyday life.
NOTE: The GNA website is very much a work in progress. Please check back as we continue to update it.
The Gordon Natural Area’s mission has two primary objectives:
Objective 1. Preservation of the Land
Initially, it was thought that management could essentially be done in a ‘hands-off’ manner (other than any small-scale maintenance that might be required by Stadium Road and the trail system). However, over time it has become increasingly evident that the land requires a very active level of directed management. This is because the integrity of the GNA is threatened by a variety of forces: e.g., invasive plants, overgrazing (by deer), invasive insects and insect-borne pathogens, non-native earthworms, fragmentation, etc. In order to begin addressing these issues, the GNA Staff, along with numerous student volunteers, have undertaken fairly extensive reforestation and afforestation efforts in the GNA.
Objective 2. Be a Natural Classroom for Environmental Studies
Since before its designation as a protected area, the lands comprising the GNA were the site for a limited number of Natural Science classes, as well as being the location for field research by a few faculty members. After receiving protection, the GNA has received extensive use as an outdoor classroom, with more than 30 courses having utilized the land. In addition to use by numerous classes in the Department of Biology, courses from a broad range of other departments (e.g., Art & Design, Business, Earth & Space Science, English, and Social Work, among others) have also taken advantage of this amazing resource.
In the early 1970’s, the University’s Administration was considering plans to develop the land that is now the Gordon Natural Area. However, two undergraduate students—David Fluri and Brad Gottfried—initiated a movement to preserve the area. Fluri and Gottfried were Biology majors and were both members of the Biology Club, and they recognized the land’s value for scientific study and its intrinsic value as a relatively mature forest in an increasingly developed landscape.
In 1971, the property was afforded protection. The protected land was named the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies in commemoration of Prof. Gordon, a science faculty member at West Chester University for 25 years. For the past 45+ years, WCU students and staff, as well as local residents (and their dogs), have continued to benefit from this decision.
A Rough Timeline of the Establishment of the Gordon Natural Area:
In the image below, the lands that are officially designated as the Gordon Natural Area are shown with pale green hatching. Additionally, the are in solid white in the lower right-hand corner of the image are 'unofficially' part of the GNA. However, despite it's not having been formerly dedicated as part of the GNA, this area is commonly used for reasearch and teaching, and a number of trails in the GNA trail system pass through this area.
As was noted above, the GNA is a multi-use preserve, and we encourage WCU students and staff, as well as local residents, to come enjoy this amazing resource.
To promote access to the GNA, the University maintains a network of trails throughout the preserve:
A pdf version of the map is available here .
In order to help maintain the GNA in the best possible condition, to protect the GNA's wildlife and plant life, and to minimize disruption to ongoing research, visitors are asked to observe the following regulations:
Thank you for respecting the Natural Area by following these regulations.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.
Beginning in the winter of 2015-16, long-time student intern and GNA Assistant Stewardship
Manager, Kendra McMillin placed a 'Visitor's Log' at the kiosk at the main entrance.
We love to read people's comments, and also maintain a photo archive of the entries.
Below, are some of our favorite comments (with a transcription of the comment in the adjoining column):
Our favorite comment to date:
"One of my last hikes a student at WCU; graduating in two months! I LOVE this place!
I hope the GNA statys protected and cared for for decades to come! I have used this
place to hike, read, meditate, and learn about native plants and animals. I came
here my first day as a freshman and I plan on hiking here the day I graduate."
“I walk here from the Boro. When I’m in the Natural Area, I walk briskly for exercise and slowly through the trails. I really enjoy listening, observing the birds and stream. I also like noticing the changes in the trees, bushes, and even the footprints. I just noticed the tree guide. I’m thinking of asking a friend to come back here and check out the Tree ID walk. Good place!”
“Wow! I’ve lived in West Chester for 10 years and this is my first time on these beautiful trails! Amazing!”
“We need more places like this in West Chester. Such an awesome place to escape.”
~ undergrad astronaut
“I’ve been stuck here for days, someone help me! EX marks the spot.”
Found Scoobers, he’s seen better days. From now on, we are in this maze together. Here’s hoping we make it out alive.
Beautiful place, though. Very green.”