Story of Impact: Pocono Environmental Education Center

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on April 02, 2018 # Quality of Life

Creativity and imagination are part of the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) mission. A mission that started day one with the center’s amazing transformation from a former honeymoon resort into a highly respected residential center for environmental education.

Located in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in northeastern Pennsylvania, the old Honeymoon Haven resort was acquired by the National Park Service more than 45 years ago as part of a hydro-electric dam project that never materialized. Through an initial partnership with Keystone College, PEEC was born.

“In 1986, PEEC separated from the college and incorporated as a private, non­profit organization that has experienced substantial growth and changes since. We went from a small facility to serving about 25,000 visitors annually,” said Jeff Rosalsky, PEEC’s executive director.

Today, PEEC offers dozens of hands-on, interactive day-use and residential programs. In addition to enjoying the scenic Delaware River, PEEC visitors can access an abundant outdoor classroom featuring shady hemlock gorges, diverse lowland and upland forests, unique boreal flora and fauna and a quarry containing 400-million-year-old fossils. Each year, the 300-bed facility hosts more than 100 school groups and camps, including a six-week camp for kids with special needs.

“PEEC strives to make the natural world accessible to all. Our programs for special needs kids and adults have certainly increased over the years,” said Rosalsky. “The demand for outdoor experiences is there, it is just a matter of increasing our offering to meet it and making sure the facility is inclusive and accessible so everyone can enjoy the full experience.”

While most of the property is ADA compliant, including a quarter-mile hiking trail, PEEC’s unique EcoZone! Discovery Room had some limitations.

“Years ago, we decided to convert the hotel’s old indoor pool into an exploration and discovery room,” said Rosalsky. “Taking advantage of the pool’s depth, we created a life-sized, walk-through beaver lodge and bat cave. But the only way for people using wheelchairs to participate was to be carried into the pool area.”

As part of another non-profit board, Rosalsky was familiar with the Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grants. PEEC applied for a grant in 2015 and received $15,000 to help fund a wheelchair lift.

“This was not a traditional use for a lift so it required some creative thought to accomplish,” said Rosalsky. “It needed to fit in the required space and function effectively.”

The new lift was installed last summer, just before the start of camp season.

“It’s so exciting to be able to make it easy for everyone to have the same experience in the EcoZone and it’s amazing how much use we’ve gotten out of it in just a couple months,” said Rosalsky. “The lift was always on our wish list, but, as a non-profit, we never could have afforded to do this without the Reeve Foundation’s help. With the lift, the EcoZone is now complete.”