January 30, 2014
The Robert B. Gordon Natural Area on West Chester University's South Campus has been designated a Wild Plant Sanctuary.
The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Wild Plant Sanctuary Program recognizes the University's commitment to preserve the approximately 100 acres of woodland, wetland, stream and meadow habitat. The designation coincides with the 40th anniversary of the establishment of the area as a protected site.
The Gordon Natural Area not only provides habitats for more than 340 species of native plants and trees, plus a multitude of fungi, fauna and invertebrates. It is also a dynamic living classroom for more than 1,200 WCU students each semester. Few suburban universities possess such a resource.
Students conduct labs and research in the Gordon Area for such classes as biology, ecology, environmental health, geography, geology and philosophy. They use the trails for cross-country team practice and hiking; they volunteer for annual invasive weed pulls and cleanups.
The DCNR identified a number of locally uncommon native plants in the Gordon Natural Area that make it an important reservoir of biodiversity, among them autumn bluegrass (Poa autumnalis), a Pennsylvania Endangered species, and nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum), a proposed Pennsylvania Threatened species.
In December, West Chester President Greg Weisenstein annexed approximately 11 acres of University open space to the Gordon Natural Area, linking the two parcels that were separated by South New Street and further protecting Plum Run, the creek that traverses the Gordon.
The Wild Plant Sanctuary Program recognizes landowners who agree to protect native plant sanctuaries on private and municipal lands and educate others about the importance of such sanctuaries. The DCNR in return offers the land stewards technical support, assistance with a management plan if needed, and ecological monitoring.