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“Community outreach” for the Cobbs Creek golf course occurred after permits for clearcutting were approved

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At a recent community walk-through to review the deforestation executed by the Cobbs Creek Restoration and Community Foundation, a foundation representative said (as quoted in Grid’s coverage of the event) that the foundation had taken part in more than 100 community outreach meetings.

“We had more than 100 meetings to tell the community about the plans,” a foundation spokeswoman said. Questioned further, she said that in some cases only one person attended the meetings.

Grid fact-checked this, and the claim doesn’t square with the list of community outreach meetings posted on the foundation’s website.

The website lists only 73 meetings, for one thing, and they all occurred after the foundation applied in June 2021 for permits to clear about 100 acres of trees and renovate the course. The first meeting listed took place on July 13, 2021, making it clear that none of the meetings occurred early enough for community input to be incorporated into the project plans. It is likely that the last 20 or so meetings occurred after the clearcutting had begun.

List of community meetings courtesy of Cobbs Creek Foundation website.

Many of the events listed on the website are described too vaguely to permit verification. For example, a January 26, 2022 event is simply listed as a “Community Townhall.” The foundation met with a “Constituent of Councilman Jones” on August 3, 2021. Perhaps the most puzzling meeting was held at the “Nike (Ardmore Location)” on September 28, 2021.

Some organizations and people had multiple meetings, including Chris Pugliese, who had three.

Two meetings were with elite private schools on the Main Line: one at the Haverford School on September 16, 2021, and another with an educator at the Shipley School, “Dr. Bruce Nakala [sic] (Educator).” (The spelling of his last name, “Nkala” has subsequently been corrected on the website.)

Eight meetings were with local foundations, including the William Penn Foundation, which is a supporter of Grid’s watershed reporting. While some of these might be programming partners, it seems that the Cobbs Creek Foundation conflates fundraising with community outreach.

The list of meetings is dominated by what appear to be networking or partnership development meetings for the Cobbs Creek Foundation’s planned educational and youth development programming, for example meetings with local public and parochial schools as well as aligned nonprofit organizations.

There is nothing wrong with this sort of outreach, but the words “community meeting” call to mind a group of local residents interacting with a representative of the foundation, say at a local civic association event or community fair. The goal of such meetings is usually to spread the word about the plans for a project while gathering input from people who will be affected by it.

Some of the listed meetings seem to fit this model, for example two Zoom calls with the Overbrook Park Civic Association, as well as visits to local churches and community organizations. But it is clear from the list that far fewer than 100 meetings occurred and that the community had no say in the design of the course or the fate of its trees.

2 Comments

  1. I agree with E Killough’s comment………& I hope the Cobbs Creek community is pushing back on this charade of “community” input…….

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