What many saw as a neglected and run-down building, Carole Williams-Green saw as an opportunity. She had a vision to turn the historic and abandoned Fairmount Park Police stables into an environmental education center. With a lot of hard work and support, she did just that.
Carole, a retired school teacher and administrator of 31 years, was always looking for ways to improve science education. She helped develop pioneering energy education curricula in the 70s and 80s through her role on PECO’s Energy Education Advisory Council. Carole admired places like Philadelphia’s Pennypack and Wissahickon Environmental Centers for their hands-on learning and field trip opportunities. “I always wished we had something like those centers in West Philadelphia,” she said. She thought it a shame that students there had to travel so far to experience quality outdoor environmental education.
So she began to gather community support, get the buy-in of city and state officials, and work with volunteers to raise nearly $2.7 million to renovate the old stables. It took ten years, but the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center now resides there. The center houses demonstration gardens, an amphitheater, restored habitats, and classrooms. The Boy Scouts recently announced that they will start at program at the center in 2017. The center also plans to start the Cobbs Creek Conservation Corps for those aged 18 to 24 who may have dropped out of high school. It will teach them valuable job skills while helping the environment.
In 2016, Carole was recognized by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education for her vision and leadership on this project. They awarded her the Meigs Award for Environmental Leadership, which is given annually to a leader in the Philadelphia area. The center’s first executive director praised Carole by saying, “Carole is a force of nature. It was her dream and her drive.” Now, through the Cobbs Creek center, she will inspire new generations with that fire.