On April 15 the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education announced that it had parted ways with executive director Michael Weilbacher.
Reached by Grid for comment, Weilbacher, who had run the organization since 2011, responded by email with a statement. “I am so proud of what the Schuylkill Center’s staff accomplished over the last 12 years — the complete reinvention of its programming, from Naturepalooza to Nature Preschool, the doubling of both staff size and budget, the physical changes to the property, from the River Trail Gateway to the Visitor Center entrance, and so much more.”
Weilbacher also noted that the center is wrapping up a master plan for its 365-acre grounds and that it had resolved the fate of the adjoining Boy Scout Tract.
The proposed sale of the Boy Scout Tract sparked a firestorm of opposition from center staff and community members when the plans leaked last summer. A previous attempt to sell the wooded tract in 2004 ultimately led to the then-director’s departure. As Weilbacher wrote in a leaked 2021 memo, “the proposal … was somehow discovered by the neighborhood, which went predictably ballistic, as it is rarely good PR when a conservation group sells land to a developer. There was even picketing at our front gate.”
Neighborhood opposition to 2022’s proposed sale focused on the loss of open space in what remains a rural corner of the city as well as the apparent conflict between the organization’s environmental mission and the development of a wooded tract. Ultimately an anonymous donor stepped in with $3 million in funding to preserve the tract as Schuylkill Center property.
Weilbacher’s tenure was previously marked by conflict with the staff of the center’s wildlife clinic, in which Rick Schubert, the clinic’s director, filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint in 2018 saying that he was fired in retaliation for providing testimony in a previous complaint involving another staff member, according to reporting by the Chestnut Hill Local.
According to the center’s announcement about Weilbacher’s departure, board of trustees vice president Erin Mooney is taking over in the interim as the organization begins its search for a new leader.