EarthFest 2014 highlights environmental action, sustaining our communities

The Philadelphia Zoo introduces and owl to student visitors at EarthFest.

When: Friday, April 25, 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where: Temple University Ambler, 580 Meetinghouse Road, Ambler, PA

Flooding is the number one disaster in the United States and the world. As local neighborhoods and communities can attest, this region of the country is particularly susceptible to the devastating impact of floods.

At EarthFest, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will have activities for students young and old focused on identifying flood risk and making better decisions on how to reduce it. Students will be able to see firsthand if their home, apartment or neighborhood falls within a flood zone. Using a detailed tabletop model, they will also be able to take a hands-on approach to determining how development affects floodplains. 

“We want to provide students with a better understanding of the causes of flooding and the consequences, both positive and negatives, of the choices that we make in our communities,” said Mari Radford, Mitigation Planner for FEMA’s Region III, which includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia. “Using Google Maps and an overlay of the National Flood Hazard Layer, students will be able to search aerial views of their neighborhoods and homes to see just how close they might be to a flood zone.”

In the wake of one of the snowiest seasons on record and the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy 18 months agencies like FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, state and local governments, and families just trying to pick up the pieces are all looking for ways to ensure that communities in the region are safe, sustainable and livable.

Since its inception in 2003, Temple University Ambler’s EarthFest has placed a spotlight on sustaining our communities, welcoming dozens of exhibitors and thousands of visitors each year for an outdoor, educational celebration of protecting and preserving the planet. FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps are just two of more than 75 exhibits and activities that will be sharing new ideas and concepts with more than 7,000 students, teachers, parents and the public at EarthFest 2014, which will be held on Friday, April 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Ambler Campus, 580 Meetinghouse Road.

“EarthFest has become an essential part of sharing what Temple Ambler does best — promoting environmental stewardship in our communities,” said Susan Spinella Sacks, EarthFest Coordinator and Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities, the event host. “We are able to bring a diverse group of students, educators, and exhibitors together each year to celebrate a common cause; then our student visitors do the real work. They are teaching their peers — and in many cases their parents — how they can ensure sustainable communities. EarthFest plants the seed; it’s the students that will make it grow.”

EarthFest 2014 places particular emphasize on water issues, from conservation to stormwater management to protecting wildlife. At EarthFest, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will show how fish use ladders. At first glance, that might seem like an odd concept, but without them, species like American Shad and River Herring wouldn’t be able to return to their historical spawning grounds.

“We’re going to highlight one of our most successful fish passage projects — the Fairmount Fish Ladder (also known as the Fairmount Dam Fishway), completed in 2009 in cooperation with (fellow EarthFest exhibitor) the Philadelphia Water Department,” said U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Biologist Mark Eberle. “Historically fish — American Shad, Hickory Shad, Striped Bass, Blueback Herring, River Herring — would swim upstream along the Schuylkill River into Berks County and beyond. The Fairmount Dam became the first in a series of dams that had become an impediment to their migration.”

According to Eberle, there has been a concerted effort among numerous agencies — including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the U.S. Army Corps — to restore connectivity along the Schuylkill for fish and other organisms.

“Where applicable, the U.S. Army Corps has been involved in dam removal efforts; old mill dams, for example, serve no current function,” he said. “In the case of the Fairmount Dam, it’s been serving an important function for the city of Philadelphia since the 1800s so alternative measures have to be found to assist the local wildlife.”

Exhibitors at EarthFest 2014

At EarthFest, exhibitors ranging from non-profit watershed groups to for-profit businesses and more than a dozen school groups will present their ideas, projects, and initiatives in new and intriguing ways. Temple departments and student organizations are also well represented at EarthFest, with participation from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture, the Department of Community and Regional Planning, the Office of Sustainability, the University Recycling Department, Temple Athletics and more.

Exhibitors for 2014 include the Academy of Natural Sciences, the Insectarium, the National Park Service, the Delaware River Basin Commission, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Elmwood Park Zoo, and dozens more.

While the Franklin Institute teaches students “How to Build a Storm,” the U.S. EPA will provide valuable information on water conservation, reducing pesticide use and controlling stormwater pollution in addition to leading tours of a 35-foot long “Mobile Command Post.” At their exhibit, the Philadelphia Zoo will promote a variety of animal conservation efforts and present a live animal program at the EarthFest Main Stage.

“EarthFest is a great opportunity to talk to people who may be new to the Zoo and may not be aware of all of the conservation work we do around the world,” said Valerie Peckham, Philadelphia Zoo Conservation Program Manager. “We hope that people will want to get involved and work to make a difference because they can affect change.”

Community Support

It would be impossible to have EarthFest without dedicated support from numerous EarthFest sponsors and more than 100 volunteers — many of whom are from local communities, schools and area businesses. 

Event contributing sponsors for 2014 include Dow; the Air Quality Partnership - Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission; the Ellis A. Gimbel Trust; Janet and Lew Klein; PECO Energy; the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association; the Temple University Department of Community and Regional Planning: the Township of Upper Dublin; and Waste Management.

“The world needs solutions for big challenges like energy, climate change, water, food, housing and health. There is a critical need to inspire the next generation to take up the call,” said Justin Land, Dow’s Northeast Public Affairs Manager. “EarthFest is a perfect opportunity to connect with more than 6,000 students who are eager to listen, learn and make a difference.”

Visit ambler.temple.edu/earthfest for all of the latest information on the event!

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