The outdoors is a classroom, and PEEC is its guide
Environmental center introduces city and country folk alike to the mystery and magic— and science — of the natural world
By Marilyn Rosenthal
MILFORD — How does a savvy, sophisticated investment banker who spent 15 years working in New York, London, and Hong Kong end up being the executive director of the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC), a world class environmental center in Dingmans Ferry, Pa.?
"It's because I realized that if I didn't get out after 15 years, I would never see my kids grow up,” said Jeff Rosalsky.
That's when he became a "house husband," but not of your ordinary garden variety. He brings the same intelligence, creativity, and passion for excellence to his role as the executive director of PEEC as he did to his banking career.
Jeff and his wife, Gail Shuttleworth, who runs her own business, have lived in Dingmans Ferry for almost 20 years, choosing it because of the natural beauty of the place. They raised their three children to respect and love the environment. The kids were steeped in many PEEC programs, especially kayaking.
Rosalsky was a volunteer at PEEC and soon was asked to join the board of directors. When the then executive director suddenly left, he was the obvious choice to take over. What was supposed to be a six-month position turned into an almost 10-year tenure.
PEEC, at 538 Emery Road in Dingmans Ferry, has a 38-acre campus that sits in the middle of the 77,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and is surrounded by an additional 100,000 acres of public land, providing guests with an enormous outdoor classroom.
The National Park Service (NPS) actually owns the property and the 45 buildings on it. PEEC, as the NPS’s educational partner of 44 years, maintains the buildings, and is an independent nonprofit organization. It is supported by user fees, grants donations, and fundraisers.
City kids, country kidsPEEC’s original purpose was to bring urban kids to the great outdoors. Now, it has added two additional roles — educating local students and special programs for local adults and families on weekends, many of whom actually come from urban areas such as New York and Philadelphia. They are eager to experience the outdoors and learn about the environment, sustainable design, and sustainable energy.
PEEC offers an extensive variety of programs such as kayaking, hiking, canoeing, crafts, cross-country skiing, birding, photography, quilting, and drumming. They have programs for scouts, and school programs aligned with New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey state standards. PEEC has summer nature adventure camps and also programs for home-schooled children, conferences, meetings, and retreats. They can accommodate groups from 15 to 300 people for programs including residential comfortable cabins and dining facilities.
Rosalsky has initiated many innovative programs, especially the EcoZone, a large discovery room that was an unused indoor swimming pool but now is an interactive natural history museum. You can crawl through a bat cave, sit in the eagle's nest, explore the Beaver Lodge, and say hello to the resident snake.
Another initiative by Rosalsky is the Freshman Orientation Program in cooperation with Princeton University. It has four main goals: sustainability, leadership, community service, and art. The program is now in its second year, with 200 students in a five-day residential program.
PEEC works with Princeton to develop a list of 9 or 10 projects. They give the students the materials and the basic idea, but the students design and execute the projects themselves. Some of the projects the students recently made were thermal solar hot water insulation, new benches made from recycled and reused materials, and a garden shed made from sandbags. Princeton wants every student to have an outdoor experience, and many of the fruits of these projects get tied in and reinforced when the freshmen return to school.
For more information, call 570-828-2319 or visit peec.org.
Mary Chapin Carpenter fundraiser
For PEEC's fundraiser this year, Jeff Rosalsky has reached out to Mary Chapin Carpenter, who will perform a benefit concert just for the center.
Carpenter is a great lover of the outdoors and, according to her publicist, was thrilled at the opportunity to perform on behalf of PEEC.
The concert is on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lackawanna College Theater in Scranton, Pa. Tickets can be purchased at peec.org/concert or by calling 570-588-8077.
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