LOWER MAKEFIELD >> William Penn’s 350th birthday was celebrated on Oct. 23, 1994 with much fanfare, both in Philadelphia and here in Bucks County.
Festivities at Pennsbury Manor included a proclamation ceremony, house tours, demonstrations, open-hearth cooking, a blacksmith demonstration, theater performances, and of course, a birthday cake.
As a community partner of the Manor, Waste Management (WM) wanted to support and contribute to the celebration. The manor’s horticulturist and Master Gardener at the time, Charlie Thomforde, developed an idea. He suggested that WM establish the William Penn Forest, a reforestation project along the road leading to Pennsbury Manor.
WM invited the Pennsbury School District’s Penn Valley Elementary School fourth grade students to plant the trees because it reinforced their learning about William Penn and life during his time. The selection of trees planted was based upon research of species noted in William Penn’s writings.
“The trees of most note are the black walnut, cedar, cypress, chestnut, poplar, gumwood, hickory, sassafras, ash, beech, and oak of divers sorts, as red, white, and black, Spanish, chestnut, and swamp,” William Penn boasted a few years after King Charles II presented him with the Pennsylvania colony. (Philadelphiaencyclopedia.org)
In early October of that year, a grassy site that offered habitat and wildlife value was developed into a woodland and named the William Penn Forest. A sign was installed as a constant reminder of the 350th birthday celebration as visitors passed by on their way to Pennsbury Manor. The area became a part of WM-PA’s Wildlife Habitat Certification project.
Unfortunately, the sign was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and the trees in the William Penn Forest were overgrown by vines.
Thanks to Ginger McAllister and her Penn Warner Club crew, the area was cleared of vines and debris.
Charlie Thomforde joined WM’s Judy Archibald to identify each tree so that future educational opportunities can be provided at the Forest. And through a PA EITC grant made from Waste Management to the Pennsbury Education Foundation, Pennsbury High School teachers Jessica Perfetto and Rick Stellwagen were able to purchase a laser engraving machine for their classes.
Together with, and as a teaching opportunity for the students, a new sign was constructed so that the Forest could once again recognize William Penn and his 350th birthday.
On June 25, WM community partners -- Doug Miller, Pennsbury Manor’s Executive Director, and Ann Langtry, Pennsbury School District’s Supervisor of Communication Strategies -- joined WM employees, friends and families as they came together during Pollinator Partnership Celebration Week to dedicate the new sign — now the year of William Penn’s 375th birthday.
“We value our community partnerships and the opportunities we have to come together to work on environmental projects and celebrate their successes,” said Bob Jones, Waste Management’s Senior District Manager.