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Audubon Society Fellow Tykee James on working in Strawberry Mansion

Every proud Philadelphian, whether you’re a new tenant in the neighborhood or a longtime homeowner, should consider themselves a steward for the environment of this city. Not just for the preservation of the natural lands, but for the conservation of our connected communities. As a Fellow for Audubon Pennsylvania, I have the pleasure of working in Strawberry Mansion, a neighborhood I’m happy to call part of my home in North Philadelphia. I look forward to providing environmental education as a community service through hosting lessons with the children at the Mander Recreation Center summer camp, as well as through free public bird walks I’ll be hosting throughout the summer. More information about the public walks can be found on the Strawberry Mansion CDC Community Calendar. They are free and I encourage you to come as you are! The first two walks will travel the Boxer’s Trail, and the last one will meet at East Park Reservoir: the site of the incoming Discovery Center, which will be the home for environmental education in North Philadelphia, immediately serving the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood. The Discovery Center will increase access to the trails surrounding the reservoir and serve as the in-house facility for both Audubon Pennsylvania and Outward Bound programming. From the groundbreaking that we can look forward to this September, to The Discovery Center’s grand opening currently planned for late 2018.

Audubon is dedicated to taking only collaborative steps to be sure that although our non-profit is housed in North Philadelphia, my neighbors and I in Strawberry Mansion can call the Discovery Center part of our home. For nearly a decade, Audubon has been working with community groups such as Strawberry Mansion CDC, Strawberry Mansion NAC and EPRA, as well as with many active and aware residents for feedback, guidance, and advice. Audubon intends to keep its relationships and programs around the city, and the Discovery Center in Strawberry Mansion will be critical in allowing us to emphasize our mission to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds and other wildlife and their habitats, for the benefit of humanity and Earth’s biological systems. Programs will include: in-school science lessons tied with community service projects, nature walks and other hands-on, outdoor environmental activities and urban gardening workshops. There will also be many volunteer opportunities such as helping to remove invasive plants, providing support for community and park cleanups, and planting pollinator gardens to help enrich the biodiversity of our green spaces.

I had never considered a career in the environment until being offered a job to educate the general public as a Docent at the Cobbs Creek Environmental Center when I was in high school. This opportunity lifted my ambitions and gave me a vision for a cleaner and greener Philadelphia that I know we can all look forward to someday. And I know it will be worth the hard work, worth the dedication, and worth compromise.

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