The Mark Thomas Pledge Challenge
After attending the Open House held at the nature center on March 2, 2013 former area resident and longtime RNC visitor Dr. Mark Thomas sent in this letter of pledge and asked that we post it to the website as a challenge to other area residents in hopes of saving the center. In addition to the generosity of Dr. Thomas' support, which is substantial, we are inspired by his poetic appreciation of the nature center and its surrounds, and are reminded of how valuable a place the Rancocas Nature Center was and is to the past, present and future generations who seek a greater understanding of and appreciation for the wonders of nature and culture that are best experienced at a place like the Rancocas Nature Center.
Westampton, New Jersey Saturday, March 2, 2013
This second day of March, 2013, in support of the Rancocas Nature Center, I pledge $2,500 for the month of March, and $2,500 for the month of April. I earnestly challenge 20 additional supporters to do the same, to support staff salaries and to initiate the development of a strategic plan to secure the future of one of New Jersey’s most cost-effective and well-regarded community assets. My recent experience, detailed below, convinced me of the wisdom of this decision.
This bright, beautiful afternoon, some 300 people – infants, toddlers, youngsters, elders, families and friends- flocked to the Rancocas Nature Center in Rancocas State Park, at the forks of the Rancocas Creek. Appreciation drew them there: for the 4000 hours of time volunteered annually by a well-trained cadre of devotees; for the educational programs that have opened the eyes of the public to the miracles of the natural world of New Jersey; for the wandering trails that trace undulating landscape, clothed in leaves, elegant beech, stately oaks, towers of holly and mounds of laurel; for the lofty view of tidal marsh at the confluence of the creek’s south and north branches, informed today by calls of redwinged blackbirds, recently arrived; for evidence of past lives in the landscape, of earthen dam whose reservoir powered Quaker gristmills, and small terraces likely to have harbored prehistoric peoples; for the ringing call of the Carolina wren and high whinny of sapsucker, who take, and give back, to this glade of serenity.
The 35 year legacy of the Rancocas Nature Center is its cultivation of a community of thousands of South Jersey residents, where many have had their first conscious experience of the natural world; who came to understand and appreciate the beauty and complexity of their natural setting; who, in many instances, have gone on to make conservation a foundation of their physical and mental well-being. Such deeply-rooted sentiments inspire a commitment to serve and a vigorous vow to protect the precious resource that is the Rancocas Nature Center.
So it was for me, a 34 year old resident physician in neighboring Mount Holly, who came to the Nature Center for the first time in 1988. Through my introduction to this beguiling landscape and its denizens, and through contact with the volunteers and staff of the center, my affinity for the area matured into the community-based effort that became the Rancocas Conservancy. Without the support and encouragement of this community, the Conservancy would not exist.
There is no way to fully assess the benefits of Rancocas Nature Center to conservation in South Jersey and beyond. It is clear, however, that the authentic social capital created at this location-knowledge, good will, humble volunteerism, and welcoming invitation- has distinguished this site, and for this reason it is beloved of its supporters.
For the Rancocas,
Mark S. Thomas, M.D.