Category Archives: Transition Town

2021 Recap: West Chester Tree Team and Living Landscapes

by Courtney Finneran

Even in the midst of the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2021 turned out to be a successful and dynamic year for the West Chester Tree Team and the Living Landscapes Committee. Our community chose to prioritize spending time outside, gardening in the soil, and educating themselves on the benefits of native planting. Below is a recap of some of the highlights. Stay tuned next month to learn about some exciting things that our committee has planned for 2022, including several native planting volunteer events at Goose Creek and Chestnut Street Garage. If you are interested in supporting our group, please email and let us know! 

Street Tree Plantings in 2021

Over the spring 2021 and fall 2021 planting seasons, the West Chester Borough Arborist planted a total of 190 new trees in street right-of-ways and parks across town. We are still counting on our Tree Team volunteers (that’s you!) to keep an eye on our street tree canopy in your travels across town. Remember that in the Borough, a permit is required for any tree work performed on street trees as well as use of a preapproved landscape firm. 

Goose Creek Invasive Removal Project (April 2021)

WCGT partnered with the Tree Commission in organizing a volunteer invasive removal and native planting project. On April 17, 2021, approximately 20 volunteers showed up to remove invasive vegetation from a 200-ft length of the banks of Goose Creek near Greenfield Park.  Once the area was cleared, volunteers laid down a thick layer of wood chips provided by the Public Works Dept. Invasive species removed include: Multiflora Rose, Porcelain Berry,  Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Honeysuckle, Garlic Mustard, Knotweed and more. 

Following the removal, local Borough residents Linda Glaum and Woody Lathbury have continued to care for the project area by showing up regularly to continue to remove invasive species, and planted native perennials and grasses alongside the native riparian trees planted by the Borough Arborist. Native plantings donated by the Glaums include Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a PawPaw, Virginia Willow (Itea virginica), Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Cutleaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata), and false sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides),

This project was led by the West Chester Green Team in partnership with the Public Works Department, the Borough Arborist, and the Borough Tree Commission.  

Lawn to Native Pollinator Garden Conversion (May 2021)

In May 2021, members of the West Chester Transition Team’s Living Landscapes Committee created a publicly accessible native pollinator garden located in the 500 block of South Maryland Ave in West Chester Borough to showcase an affordable DIY project to convert a monoculture lawn into a gorgeous and ecologically beneficial native pollinator garden. 

Accessible from the sidewalk, the new 200-square-foot native pollinator garden provides nectar for butterflies and hummingbirds and food for caterpillars. Native plants have evolved to act as hosts to our native insects and therefore provide a highly valuable resource that cannot be provided by non-natives.

Green Man Garden Tour (June 2021)

In June of 2021, the WCGT developed a self-guided walking tour of 10 home gardens across the Borough. The tour included a scavenger hunt where each of the home participants hid a green man/woman in the landscape of the garden area. The WCGT website contained all the details including the sample walking route.  The tour focused mostly on showcasing native gardens including lawn conversions across various scales, including some established, some new, and some in process. This may be an annual tradition, so reach out if you are interested in supporting this effort in 2022! 

Chestnut Street Hellstrip Garden (September 12, 2021)

The WCGT Living Landscapes committee organized a native planting project for the “hellstrip” along East Chestnut Street at the Chester County History Center.  This strip of dirt between the curb and sidewalk now includes a 7 ft long x 3.5 ft wide strip of native plants — all donated by WCGT members — including “shorter” perennials, grasses, and cover.  

E. Prescott Alley / Chestnut St Garage Garden (October, 2021)

The West Chester Business Improvement District (BID) reached out to the WCGT to help beautify one alleyway in downtown West Chester in an effort to achieve an important goal in the BID’s five-year plan. Members of BID and WCGT together recognized the urgent need to install a native pollinator garden which would provide an educational component with informational signage, an ecological oasis providing habitat for pollinators, and a beautiful landscape component of the urban environment. Phase 1 efforts completed in 2021 included planning and design, and a volunteer-led work day where approximately 20 individuals removed the original mature invasive shrubs, installed a new garden path, planted several redbud trees and 12 native shrubs. In Spring 2022, volunteers will be asked to help plant over 2,000 perennial plugs to help complete the project. This new garden is located at the base of the Chestnut St Garage (on the East Prescott Alley side) and serves as a highly visible entrance point for visitors to the West Chester Borough business district. 

West Chester Area Transition is official!

transition-wcgt-2021-yard-signOn July 12, 2021, Transition US notified us that it has approved the membership application of West Chester Area Transition, a program of the West Chester Green Team.

You can now read about WCAT here. See an earlier summary of West Chester Area Transition’s work here. Read about other nearby Transition groups Phoenixville Area Transition here, Transition Town Media here, and Wilmington in Transition here.

Transition US logo

From the overall Transition movement’s self-description:

Transition is a movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world.

The international Transition movement began in 2005 in Totnes, England, and has since spread to over 1,200 communities in 50 countries around the world. Transition is about communities stepping up to address the big challenges we face by starting at the local level. We seek to nurture a caring culture, one focused on connection with self, others and nature. We are reclaiming the economy, sparking entrepreneurship, reimagining work, reskilling ourselves and weaving webs of connection and support. We are engaging in courageous conversations; extraordinary change is unfolding.

Every Transition Initiative is independently-run, responding to the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in our local communities. However, we are bound together by a similar outlook, a common set of principles, and a five-stage model for scaling-up our impacts over time.

Our Principles

We respect resource limits and create resilience

The urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and make wise use of precious resources is at the forefront of everything we do.

We Promote Inclusivity and Social Justice

The most disadvantaged and powerless people in our societies are likely to be worst affected by rising fuel and food prices, resource shortages, and extreme weather events. We want to increase the chances of all groups in society to live well, healthily, and sustainable livelihoods.

We Adopt Self-Organization and Decision-Making at the Appropriate Level

The intention of the Transition model is not to centralize or control decision-making, but rather to work with everyone so that it is practiced at the most appropriate, practical, and empowering level.

We Pay Attention to Balance

In responding to urgent, global challenges, individuals and groups can end up feeling stressed, closed, or driven rather than open, connected, and creative. We create space for reflection, celebration, and rest to balance the times when we’re busily getting things done. We explore different ways of working which engage our heads, hands, and hearts that enable us to develop collaborative and trusting relationships.

We Are Part of an Experimental, Learning Network

Transition is a real-life, real-time, global social experiment. Being part of a network means we can create change more quickly and more effectively, drawing on each other’s experiences and insights. We want to acknowledge and learn from failure as well as success – if we’re going to be bold and find new ways of living and working, we won’t always get it right the first time. We will be open about our processes and will actively seek and respond positively to feedback.

We Freely Share Ideas and Power

Transition is a grassroots movement, where ideas can be taken up rapidly, widely, and effectively because each community takes ownership of the process themselves. Transition looks different in different places and we want to encourage, rather than unhelpfully constrain that diversity.

We Collaborate and Look for Synergies

The Transition approach is to work together as a community, unleashing our collective genius to have a greater impact together than we can as individuals. We will look for opportunities to build creative and powerful partnerships across and beyond the Transition movement and develop a collaborative culture, finding links between projects, creating open decision-making processes, and designing events and activities that help people make connections.

We Foster Positive Visioning and Creativity

Our primary focus is not on being against things, but on developing and promoting positive possibilities. We believe in using creative ways to engage and involve people, encouraging them to imagine the future they want to inhabit. The generation of new stories is central to this visioning work, as is having fun and celebrating.

Transition Inspiration from Port Washington NY

Transition Town Port Washington (on the northern shore of Long Island NY) is hard at work educating its community and collaborating with like-minded organizations to carry out so many things that we too believe in: climate action as a member of Communities United to Reduce Emissions 100% (CURE); plastics reduction (with a recent very informative article on “Plastics: The Everlasting Epidemic“; divesting from fossil fuel investments (which the the $226 billion NY state pension fund is actually doing); and much more. We thank them for the inspiration!

West Chester Area Transition: Roots and Branches

West Chester Area Transition, the latest initiative of the WC Green Team, is now fully functional, with regular meetings, three programs underway, and two more in the planning.

In January 2021, a group of Green Team leaders and friends engaged in a brainstorming activity following the guidelines of the international Transition movement, which asks:  “What does your town need?”  Out of this activity came fice ideas which were discussed and narrowed down to three for 2021. 

First, we decided that the community needed more community gardens and now we have added three.  We have been working with Barclay Friends, the Lockard family and the Melton Center on this project, whose coordinators are Elizabeth Schultz, Nathaniel Smith and Ashlie Delshad.

As part of this outreach, the Green Team asked two of our hosts, Barclay Friends and the Melton Center: “What can we do for you?”  At Barclay we are teaching gardening skills to the staff, growing herbs to be used in the residents’ dining hall, and providing a concert in the garden for residents and gardeners and their families, with local favorite Stephanie Markstein performing there on August 14.

At the Melton Center, we agreed to provide children’s programming and are now busy getting all the details in place for eight evening events.  The series begins on Monday, June 21, with a planting activity led Elizabeth Schultz, our summer intern.  Subsequent programs will include a folk tale about peaches from Japan, one on how pumpkins grow, another on beneficial insects, and finally an ice cream party–with no-dairy options–along with stories from New Zealand.  

Another Transition initiative is Living Landscapes, in which a team led by Courtney Finneran is piloting removing grass and planting pollinators.

Our other current initiative is cutting down on plastics. Another of Prof. Schraedley’s communications classes reached out to about 60 restaurants and businesses in the Borough and about plastics reduction in the context of the Borough’s Sustainable Storefronts initiative (see more details and update here).

If you would like to volunteer to help out in any of these programs, or would like to donate to these good causes, please contact Margaret at

WC Green Team / WC Area Transition 20212 yard sign

Have you seen our Transition sign in yards yet?  It shows many colored hands with blossoming flowers and the  words “Rising to the Challenges of Our Time.”  The beautiful image was created by Transition US and happily shared with us. This sign was unveiled on Earth Day at West Chester University by Mayor Jordan Norley and his wife Rani.  WCU representatives in attendance included Director of Sustainability Brad Flamm, and Prof Megan Schraedley.  In addition, Nathaniel Smith represented the GT.  Dr. Schradley and West Chester GT activist and Tree Team head Courtney Finneran were recognized for their environmental leadership and presented the keys to the Borough by Mayor Norley.

See the text of Rani Norley’s well-received unveiling speech to explain the sign along with other Earth Day info and images here.

More background

Did you know that nearby Media and Phoenixville are Transition Towns?  Transition began in England in 2009.  The motivating idea was that the world is moving beyond fossils fuels and needs to work on resilience, solidarity, and mutual support in our communities.  

The terms transition town, transition initiative and transition model refer to grassroots community projects that aim to increase self-sufficiency to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability. Transition is specific to the needs of each community.  Media has a free store housed in a Methodist Church where people can drop off unwanted items and pick up what they need.  A donation box brings in enough money to cover the utilities, and everyone is happy with it.  Media also sponsors many celebrations designed to foster community and bring the town together–such as Winter Solstice celebrations. 

Phoenixville already had a work barter system (a common Transition idea), so has sponsored pop-up repair cafes where they serve coffee, repair items, and teach repair skills.  Central to Transition thinking is zero waste and teaching skills.  Transition in Phoenixville works in parallel with their Green Team.  

In West Chester, when we brought up adding in Transition thinking to our Green Team work, the idea arose of a free store–but many felt that Buy Nothing West Chester is already doing a good job with that (if your family is not already a member, we suggest you look into joining on Facebook).  We looked into housing the store at the Cornerstone Christian Fellowship on West Gay St,. but they are now closed because of the pandemic, so we put that idea on hold.

Another idea was to sponsor a community-wide festival–maybe around Earth Day.  Paula Kline suggested front porch music–as she was involved with such a festival in New Haven CT.  Everybody loved this image for West Chester’s front porches.  We brainstormed ideas and reached out to a couple of locations.  Rev. Dan Schatz of Unitarian Congregation, a musician in the Appalachian mountain tradition–and a very good one–suggested that this April is too soon to do such a festival.  And so, the consensus was to postpone it.  We are looking to offer it in April of ’22 and already have support from 3 Borough locations.  We hope to offer it all around the town and involve graphic art and drama as well as music. 

So the festival idea is on hold till next year, though this year’s Earth Day included an initial step, with people viewing sidewalk chalk art in town and recycled art on the terrace at the Chester County History Center, thanks to students in one of Prof. Megan Schraedley’s classes.

For programs we launched in 2021, see above. For our earlier planning phase, see here.

Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

By WCU Office of Sustainability, WC Area Transition, WC Green Team, and members of Chesco Environment Alliance

APRIL 7 at 7 pm: Local Gardening and Living Landscapes: Transitioning to Productive Futures 

Host:  Brad Flamm
Moderator: Joan Welch
Community Gardening:  Ashlie Delshad
Sustainable Vegetable Gardening:  Jim Hines
Pollinator Gardens:  Sallie Jones
Students in Gardening:  Elizabeth Schultz

More info and registration HERE.

Announcing Exploratory Committee for Transition Team West Chester

We are excited to announce the formation of an Exploratory Committee for Transition Team West Chester. It’s time to rise to the Challenge of our Time!   

What is Transition Town?  Founded in 2009 in the UK and now with affiliates around the globe, Transition Towns are groups of neighbors and friends who are concerned about climate change and the health of the planet and all of its inhabitants. 

As stated by Transition Town Media, the first in the state of PA, “We recognize that our government and institutions can’t adequately address all these concerns and that it is up to us as a community to strengthen our local economy and to keep our families happy and healthy.” 

What do Transition Towns do?  There are many options including time-banking or bartering work, free stores, repair cafes, and tool libraries.  West Chester is already doing a great deal of environmental and sustainable organizing, and many organizations are addressing issues of plastic use, organic gardening, seed banking, composting, buying nothing, and supporting local agriculture. 

We will explore whether or not to pursue the TT designation and, if so, brainstorm a plan of action for the West Chester community. If you are interested in joining this group, please contact Margaret Hudgings at  Meetings will be monthly beginning in January 2021.  All welcome.  

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