Whetting a thirst for water research

‘Brandywine Trek’ an educational odyssey for Coatesville teens

By Kathleen Brady Shea, Managing Editor, CoatesvilleTimes.com

Participants in the 2011 Brandywine Trek land on the banks of the Brandywine with smiles.

Besides providing area drinking water and scenic vistas for hiking trails, next week the Brandywine Creek will also double as a learning lab.

Ten Coatesville-area teens will leave for the second annual “Brandywine Trek” on Monday. Under the auspices of the Brandywine Health Foundation’s Coatesville Youth Initiative, the teens will spend nearly a week camping, fishing, and canoeing along the Brandywine – in between juggling 40-pound backpacks.

Jarvis Berry, community mobilizer and camping guru for the Coatesville Youth Initiative , said the program began last year after the foundation was approached by the Stroud Water Research Center. Stroud had piloted a New York youth odyssey in 2007, which traced the Big Apple’s drinking water from its origins in the Catskill Mountains. The center wanted to do a similar program locally, Berry said.

The program was such a success that the 2011 group has requested a “trek reunion” this summer, he said. In the meantime, this year’s program will feature some minor differences.

“We’re going to have a heavier focus on leadership development,” Berry said. ”We’ll still participate in team-building, getting involved in our own community, and learning the importance of protecting the watershed.”

Teens follow the leader – and the creek – during the Coatesville Youth Initiative’s first ‘Brandywine Trek.’

With assistance from the Stroud center, the Coatesville Youth Initiative is spearheading this year’s expedition and partnering with Outward Bound, which will supply two trek leaders for the program’s leadership-building component.

During the four-day overnight program, the teens will travel from the Brandywine headwaters in Honey Brook to Downingtown, Berry said. Along the way, they will stop to learn how water has been used during the steel industry over the years, how water is tested, and how organizations such as the Brandywine Valley Association are working to safeguard this natural resource.

“We got great feedback last year,” Berry said. “For many, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It not only aided their appreciation for the beauty of the Brandywine but also helped them understand its importance.”

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