The 'Creek Explorers Camp' (one of WCU's Summer Adventure Day Camps) is happening
this week in the Gordon Natural Area! The camp is for 4th Graders. Activities are
focused primarily on Plum Run—a creek that begins in West Chester and runs to the
Brandywine River—with some activities also taking place in the Gordon forest.
The camp will run through this week and is being led by memebers of the Stroud Water Research Center's staff.
"What greater delight is there than to behold the earth apparelled with plants, as
with a robe of embroidered worke, set with Orient pearles and garnished with great
diversitie of rare and costly jewlels?"
— John Gerald; Gerald's Herbal (1597)
Welcome to the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies website.
The Gordon Natural Area (also referred to as 'the Gordon' and ‘the GNA’) occupies
approximately 135 acres along the southeastern corner of West Chester University’s
campus and is administered in collaboration with the University’s Office of Sustainability. Established as a protected area in 1971, the GNA has since served as a refuge for
local wildlife and native plants, and as a multi-use setting for researchers, nature
lovers, runners, dog walkers, and people looking to spend a little time in the natural
The Gordon Natural Area’s mission has two primary objectives:
Objective 1. Preservation of the Land
Initially, it was thought that management could essentially be done in a ‘hands-off’ manner (other than any small-scale maintenance that might be required by Stadium Road and the trail system). However, over time it has become increasingly evident that the land requires a very active level of directed management. This is because the integrity of the GNA is threatened by a variety of forces: e.g., invasive plants, overgrazing (by deer), invasive insects and insect-borne pathogens, non-native earthworms, fragmentation, etc. In order to begin addressing these issues, the GNA Staff, along with numerous student volunteers, have undertaken fairly extensive reforestation and afforestation efforts in the GNA.
Objective 2. Be a Natural Classroom for Environmental Studies
Since before its designation as a protected area, the lands comprising the GNA were the site for a limited number of Natural Science classes, as well as being the location for field research by a few faculty members. After receiving protection, the GNA has received extensive use as an outdoor classroom, with more than 30 courses having utilized the land. In addition to use by numerous classes in the Department of Biology, courses from a broad range of other departments (e.g., Art & Design, Business, Earth & Space Science, English, and Social Work, among others) have also taken advantage of this amazing resource.
In 1971, the property was afforded protection. The protected land was named the Robert B. Gordon Natural Area for Environmental Studies in commemoration of Prof. Gordon, a science faculty member at West Chester University for 25 years. For the past 45+ years, WCU students and staff, as well as local residents (and their dogs), have continued to benefit from this decision.
A Rough Timeline of the Establishment of the Gordon Natural Area:
The largest portion of the Gordon is situated between S. High Street and S. New Street (see image below). The land contains large blocks of mature forest, along with areas of secondary forest, seasonally-indundated floodplain, upland meadow, and maintained (i.e., mown) 'grassland.'
In the image below, the lands that are officially designated as the Gordon Natural Area are shown with pale green hatching. Additionally, the are in solid white in the lower right-hand corner of the image are 'unofficially' part of the GNA. However, despite it's not having been formerly dedicated as part of the GNA, this area is commonly used for reasearch and teaching, and a number of trails in the GNA trail system pass through this area.
As was noted above, the GNA is a multi-use preserve, and we encourage WCU students and staff, as well as local residents, to come enjoy this great resource.
The main entrance to the Gordon is at the southeastern corner of R Lot (behind the football stadium). If you don't have a University parking pass, four parking spaces are available specifically for the GNA (no parking pass needed). The University Shuttle Bus will take you to R Lot, if you let the driver know that you want to go there. Better yet, sign up for the University's Bike Share Program to get to and from the GNA, or leave the bike at the Sturzbecker Station on New Street.
To promote access to the GNA, the University maintains a network of trails throughout the preserve:
A pdf version of the map is available here .
In order to help maintain the GNA in the best possible condition, to protect the GNA's wildlife and plant life, and to minimize disruption to ongoing research, visitors are asked to observe the following regulations:
Thank you for respecting the Natural Area by following these regulations.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact us.
Beginning in the winter of 2015-16, long-time student intern and GNA Assistant Stewardship
Manager, Kendra McMillin placed a 'Visitor's Log' at the kiosk at the main entrance.
We love to read people's comments, and also maintain a photo archive of the entries.
Below, are some of our favorite comments (with a transcription of the comment in the adjoining column):
Our favorite comment to date:
"One of my last hikes a student at WCU; graduating in two months! I LOVE this place!
I hope the GNA statys protected and cared for for decades to come! I have used this
place to hike, read, meditate, and learn about native plants and animals. I came
here my first day as a freshman and I plan on hiking here the day I graduate."
“I walk here from the Boro. When I’m in the Natural Area, I walk briskly for exercise and slowly through the trails. I really enjoy listening, observing the birds and stream. I also like noticing the changes in the trees, bushes, and even the footprints. I just noticed the tree guide. I’m thinking of asking a friend to come back here and check out the Tree ID walk. Good place!”
“Wow! I’ve lived in West Chester for 10 years and this is my first time on these beautiful trails! Amazing!”
“We need more places like this in West Chester. Such an awesome place to escape.”
~ undergrad astronaut
“I’ve been stuck here for days, someone help me! EX marks the spot.”
Found Scoobers, he’s seen better days. From now on, we are in this maze together. Here’s hoping we make it out alive.
Beautiful place, though. Very green.”