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Crum Regatta returns to the creek

in News by

The Crum Regatta, one of Swarthmore’s most long-lived and notable traditions, returned to the Crum Creek after two years. In 2015 and 2016, due to the reconstruction of the train trestle, the Regatta as held in the Ware Pool. This year during Garnet Weekend, the area was finally free of the disruption of machinery and fencing.

At total of twenty-four students, split into five teams each with a homemade vessel, competed in the Regatta this year: Pub Nite Lime with the U.S.S. Keg Stand, Jaded and Faded with the HMS Fomo, the United Federal Reserve of Planets with the USS Free Enterprise, Facial Laceration with the The Transfer Trawler, and the Balloondry Basketeers with the Balloondry Basket.

As a junior transfer student, Swarthmore traditions are novel to me. But as someone who hails from the Pacific Northwest and has a passion for the outdoors, the Crum Regatta immediately appealed to those sentiments,” said Jack Pokorny ’19.

Last year’s winning team, the Soviet Union of International Waters, returned this year as the United Federal Reserve of Planets and claimed first place again.

“They were the favorite heading into race day, but there was a question about their ability to make the transition from the relative calm of Ware Pool to the wild environs of the Crum. They built a kayak this year, with Rhys [Manley ’20] again as the pilot, and they won a close race. Second place went to the Jaded and Faded team, [sailing] an inflatable clamshell-type craft that relied on the overwhelming propulsion of swim team members,” said associate director of alumni and parent engagement Geoff Semenuk.

In fact, the regatta has technically never left the Crum Creek.

“Even though the 2015 and 2016 Regattas were in the Ware Pool, they were still technically in Crum Creek water owing to the fact that the college water supply comes from the Crum [and is] collected, filtered, sanitized and pumped from the Aqua facility several miles upstream from campus,” said Semenuk.

Semenuk has been in charge of organizing the Crum Regatta for 20 years. Until several years ago, the Regatta had always been in the spring semester.

“It […] was often postponed because of ice and snow. Several years ago there was an idea to hold it in the fall as part of Garnet Weekend. In my mind this was a great idea because the race time water temperature is about 25 or 30 degrees warmer in early October than it is in early April. The water level is lower in the fall, but the comfort level is much higher,” said Semenuk.

This year’s Regatta engendered bonding of team members as well as a fair share of excitement.

I assisted in constructing a boat out of PVC piping, duck tape, and brooms. The boat fit two lanky underclassmen, John Kriney [’20] and Zachary Weiss [’20], with about two inches to spare above the water line. And while the construction did involve a speedy visit to the ER (huge thanks to Pub Safe!), the process brought us closer together. “I was holding [a PVC pipe] under pressure, accidentally let it go, [and] the end [hit] me right besides the nose,” said Pokorny from Team Facial Laceration.

There was also drama the morning of the competition, as one of teams could not find its vessel.

“The Pub Nite team strapped two empty half-kegs together [and] tested it out on the Crum on the night before the race, but when they went to collect the boat from its hiding place near the Little Falls, they found it had been taken. Luckily, after a tense 15 minutes of searching they found that it had been thrown into the Crum north of the meadow. They pulled it out and made it to the race in time,” said Semenuk.

While the competition had been fun, there were some drawbacks to this year’s Regatta. The Regatta traditionally has a mass start; every team starts together. This year, however, the water levels in the Crum — and in eastern Pennsylvania in general — are very low.

“The traditional racing format of every team starting at the same time had to give way to a time-trial format. This was to take advantage of the single track deep channel that was available,” said Semenuk.

A longer course with a mass start would bolster the level of fun exponentially in my opinion,” said Pokorny.

Pokorny also brought up the need to preserve the Crum Creek’s cleanliness, especially after the Crum Regatta every year.

“I hope more emphasis could be placed on cleaning up the Crum watershed. It is not uncommon to see trash floating down the river. For a school that places heavy emphasis on sustainability and environmental consciousness, we have a messy backyard,” said Pokorny.

Featured image taken from the Swarthmore College Instagram account.

From Hanoi to Crum Creek

in Columns/Op-Eds/Opinions/Swat Global by

Squatting on a little wooden stool on the sidewalk, I am captivated by the story of a small-framed 60-year-old woman who has lived in the Dong Da District of Hanoi for over 50 years. She sits across from me on the other side of a small wooden coffee table, also known as the entirety of her family’s small business. While hopefully awaiting her next customer, she tells me the tale of the Tu Loc River and how a natural feature that was once an amenity has become her greatest source of suffering.

The woman speaks slowly but deliberately and with obvious pain in her eyes. She begins her story by describing the beauty of the river 20 years ago, when the water was blue and people took for granted their ability to swim and fish. She then guides me to the critical point, when too many residents and community members began dumping their trash in the river, thinking nothing of the plastic wrappers, oil, and household cleaners carried away by the river and into the great unknown. As years passed, human waste built up in the river, swimming became unsafe, and fish started to disappear.

As she reached the climax, it was clear this story had no happy ending. Despite government initiatives to clean the river, they couldn’t keep up with the amount of waste people had added to the water. Now, 20 years later, the river is an ominous pool of toxins smelling of sewage, or “rotten eggs” as the woman described it. The woman walked me across the street to the river, showing me the translucent film covering the water supposedly treated by the government. It was clear that swimming, fishing, or even admiring the beauty of the river was no longer a realistic activity for the residents of the community.

In the United States, and particularly in our Swat bubble, we Swarthmore students like to believe such a scene could never happen to us. Surely, the idea of needing to both boil and filter water before we can safely drink it, is one of a third world country. The United States takes better care of its water system. Especially locally at Swarthmore, we would never pollute the Crum Creek in the same way as the residents of Hanoi.

Except our optimism bias couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, Swarthmore students and community members are already severely polluting Crum Creek. Last year at the Little Crum Creek Clean Up, 40 Scott Arboretum volunteers removed tires and plastic bags from the creek only to find more bags of trash floating in the river the next day. After 19 clean-ups last year to protect the Ridley Crum Watershed, 620,000 pounds of trash was removed from the river. Still, students and community members are tossing beer cans or snack wrappers into the creek to be carried onto the great unknown.

Yet, particularly with Crum Creek, the final location of our pollutants aren’t so unknown, and the pollutants are already negatively impacting people’s lives. The Crum Creek is part of a watershed that flows into Springton Lake Reservoir and the Delaware River, providing at least 19 million gallons of water per day for over 200,000 Delaware County residents. According to the Chester Ridley Crum Watershed Association, the Crum Creek is a special protection stream, home to the largest cold water fishery and native trout population in the area. Yet, fish populations and other wildlife have been substantially decreasing. Breeding populations of native brook trout and American Shad have disappeared from the creek altogether, indicating a decline in water quality and serving as a warning that the water source many of us depend on is facing the threat of an ending not much different from the Tu Loc River in Hanoi.

The good news is that for the outside community and us Swatties,  actions can be taken to protect our water source for recreational and necessary uses before the fish completely disappear or Swarthmore begins to smell as rancid as the Tu Loc River. While environmental issues like climate change or the fossil fuel industry can seem daunting, there is a simple yet powerful solution to protect our water source. Our smallest responsibility as Swatties can be to not leave trash in the Crum Woods and to bring a trash bag to remove other garbage from the creek and woods. While it may be another person’s trash, it will affect the whole population. As Swatties, perhaps we can even expand our responsibility to join with the outside community and attend Crum Creek Clean Up days because, while their efforts may seem small, any less trash in the river can make a huge difference.

After concluding my interview with the woman, she locked eyes with me and pleaded, “I just need someone to clean up the Tu Loc River because I don’t want to suffer anymore.” Other residents have begun to give up on the river, stating they’d rather build a road over the water since the water serves “no purpose and causes only harm.”

While I cannot yet create a solution to solve the issues of the Tu Loc River in Hanoi, we Swatties can learn from the experiences of these residents and play an active role in protecting our own water source before future generations are forced to suffer from our mistakes. In Hanoi, the residents 20 years ago did not realize the beauty of their river and all the joy it brought to the community through giving them a place to swim, fish, and drink water. At Swarthmore, it is our duty to recognize these amenities and privileges now, and play a small yet active role in protecting one of nature’s gifts and necessities.


Mushrooms, Mushrooms, Mushrooms!

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

On Saturday, January 28th, one of my more strange – yet important – dreams came true!  I taught a class called MUSHROOMS, MUSHROOMS, MUSHROOMS! at Peripeteia Weekend.  My opening slide quoted well-known Mycologist Paul Stamets. It read: “Fungi are the grand molecular disassemblers of nature.  They are the interface organisms between life and death.  They generate soil … The entire food web of nature is based on these fungal filaments.  The mycelial network that infuses all land masses in the world is a supportive membrane upon which life proliferates and further diversifies.”  This is true, of course, but fungi and the study of mycology have been largely ignored by scientists, the public, and the media.

It seems as though fungi and the Crum Woods are similar in that they both have so much to offer but have been largely ignored.  On Saturday, however, there were nearly forty people in the woods all gathered around the same, fallen red oak tree.  That’s quite a lot of attention for one lowly log!  This log, however, I know very well as it has been the source of numerous edible species of mushrooms and I just had to share it with the class.  Afterward, several students asked me questions related to the Crum Woods, including how they could get involved.  To my own surprise, I did not have a good answer.  How can Swarthmore students get involved in caring for our forest?

The Grounds and Horticultural Department and the Scott Arboretum have always cared for the Crum Woods, but the threats to ecosystem stability are daunting, and we are in need of more resources to be better stewards of our land.  Balancing the various uses of the Crum Woods also provides unique challenges. Over fifty species of invasive plants and an overabundant deer population have been degrading the health of the forest for decades. Sewer line repairs in 2011 and the replacement of the railroad Trestle from 2015 to 2016 have left us with over twenty acres to restore and manage. Additionally, stormwater surges have eroded land and polluted the Crum Creek and its tributaries.

We are fortunate that the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee has made great strides in the past fifteen years, including the creation of trail maps, the installation of signs at entrances to the forest, the new tradition of the annual fall student tree planting, and the implementation of a deer population management program which involves archery, culling, and long-term monitoring of ecosystem responses.  We are also fortunate that there are three students in the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship program who are working on important projects related to the Crum Woods Stewardship.  I also have two Grounds crew student workers who work with me in the Woods each week to remove weeds, build brush-bars, and care for the trees we have planted.

Student involvement will be a crucial component for the proper management of the Crum Woods going forward.  There are various ways that students can engage with the Woods, but other than the annual creek clean-up, scheduled for April 21, there is no established framework for students to work in the Woods.   Dozens of courses utilize the forest and I urge readers to consider how special it is to have a nearly 200-acre forest as part of this campus.  I also ask students to consider the Crum Woods when they are choosing research topics or volunteer projects.

I also realize that there are many students and other members of our community who may have never been in a forest before or who have traveled great distances to be here.  The Crum Woods offers us natural history and a sense of place.  It is a place for exercising and relaxing, and a place to learn and develop a stronger relationship with nature and your surroundings. We should get to know it better!

Here are some ways that students can learn about the Crum Woods or be more actively involved in its stewardship: Attending the creek clean-up on Friday, April 21. Attending Scott Arboretum tours of the Crum Woods, which leave from the Amphitheater at noon on March 12, April 12, and May 4. Volunteering to serve on the Crum Woods Stewardship Committee. Applying for the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship. Talking to your classmates and professors. Pursuing research on topics that can aid in stewardship of the forest. Attending Bird Club walks in the Crum. Attend the annual fall student tree planting in October. Being a good steward in your own way – respect the forest, walk on trails, pick up litter if need be, and take ownership of and pride in the Crum Woods.  Feel free to contact me, Mike Rolli, the Crum Woods Restoration Assistant, with any questions at mrolli1@swarthmore.edu.

A Crum Creek meander ends in arrest in New York

in Around Campus/News by
Police pursue the suspects outside of the Raven Motel.
Police pursue the suspects outside of the Raven Motel.

A message sent by the college’s alert notification system on the evening of March 7 — the last day before Spring Break — informed the campus community that Media Police were on campus and searching the Crum Woods for a man associated with a hit and run incident. The hit and run occurred as a part of a drug bust gone awry.

According to news reports, officers with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division were conducting an undercover drug operation around 4:00 p.m. at the Ravel Motel in Media, off Baltimore Pike on Providence Road. A member of the Delaware County Narcotics Task Force arranged for a purchase of 31 bags of heroin and, after the completion of the sale, according to court documents, officers tried to capture Saleem Montgomery, 26, of Philadelphia, who delivered the drugs.

When Montgomery returned to his car to drive away, officers surrounded the vehicle to try to arrest Montgomery and two other men in the car, Isiah Herrin, 22, and Alvin Washington, 27, also of Philadelphia. The car charged surrounding officers, hit a nearby car and almost hit several officers. An ATF agent fired at the car but was hit by it in the process and has been treated for a minor ankle injury.

The suspects hit several other cars as they fled eastbound on Baltimore Pike, running two red lights and darting into oncoming traffic. The car finally stopped on the southbound ramp to I-476, where it hit two vehicles, causing minor injuries to passengers in both cars. The three men ran into the nearby woods and Herrin and Washington were both arrested in Nether Providence Township following a foot chase. Montgomery, the alleged heroin dealer and driver of the vehicle, escaped.

According to an alert notification sent out to students around 5:45 p.m. on Friday, police were searching for Montgomery, described as “a dark complexion black male, 6’3” – 6’6” tall, 300 pounds, with a beard, wearing black pants with a black and grey hooded jacket and sneakers,” around campus. The notification described him as being “involved in a hit-and-run with Media Police.”

The police search involved Route 476, Baltimore Pike, Turner Road and Plush Mill Road, as well as the Crum Woods Meadow and the Crum Creek. Helicopters flew over the Swarthmore campus as police searched for any sign of Montgomery. Four hours after the initial alert, a second alert was sent out saying that local law enforcement had cleared the area and that no report of the suspect had been made.

While the college’s alert notification system includes phone messages, text messages and emails to those who sign up, there was a glitch. The Google/Postini spam filtering system, which Information Technology Services (ITS) uses to filter Swatmail, sent around 80 percent of these messages to Swatmail’s quarantine, according to Joel Cooper, chief information technology officer.

“This happened because of changes made to Postini by Google,” Cooper said. “They make regular changes because of the ever-changing and dynamic nature of email spam. Swarthmore’s Blackboard emergency notification system worked fine as recently as February 5, 2014, when an emergency notification message was sent successfully regarding the campus power outage.”

Marisa Lopez ’15, who had yet to leave for spring break, is among the students who did not receive the email notification. Hearing about the incident from the local news channel that was playing at the nail salon she was in, Lopez decided to wait to return to campus.

“As I was driving back towards campus, I saw cops blocking all the entrances to 476 and I-95 and before I had to make the turn from the [Baltimore] Pike towards campus, I got an automated call from Public Safety warning that the person had last been spotted by the Science Center,” she said.

Cooper explained that experiences such as Lopez’s are the reason so many forms of notification are available.

Still, Lopez does not feel the notification system at Swarthmore is adequate.

“While my safety does not feel threatened, this experience for me shows that crisis communication between Public Safety and the campus community needs to be improved.”

Cooper explained that ITS will continue to work with Public Safety to ensure that the alert notification system works as efficiently as possible. A test conducted last Friday, one week after the two messages were sent, was successful, Cooper said.

“Going forward, we will work with Public Safety to conduct periodic tests of the Blackboard system to make sure that all modes of communication continue to work properly,” he continued.

Montgomery was arrested last Thursday, six days after the incident, by U.S. Marshals in Fort Montgomery, New York, after officials barricaded the area around a rap show. Montgomery is now being charged with attempted homicide, five counts of recklessly endangering another person, aggravated assault by vehicle, accidents involving death or personal injury, fleeing or attempting to elude an officer, and aggravated assault, as well as drug charges. He will go on trial March 28 in Philadelphia for the heroin sale that prompted the investigation, which occurred last September.

Sixty heroin-related deaths were reported in Delaware County in 2013, according to the District Attorney’s office.

CorrectionAn earlier online version of this article incorrectly attributed this article only to Razi Shaban. It was co-written with Sarah Coe-Odess. The Phoenix apologizes for this error. 

SEPTA prepares for Crum bridge replacement

in News by


Thanks to additional state capital funding from Pennsylvania’s new transportation funding bill, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) will embark on a complete replacement of the aging Crum Creek Viaduct, the 900-foot railroad bridge that carries trains on SEPTA’s Media/Elwyn regional rail line between Swarthmore and points west. The viaduct passes over much of the Crum Woods, the 220-acre woodland adjacent to the developed portion of the college campus.

The viaduct was built in the 1890s and acquired by SEPTA in the early 1980s. In 1983, SEPTA completed a renovation project to extend the viaduct’s working life by 25 years — but now, more than 30 years later, a replacement is overdue. In the fall, SEPTA officials said they would be forced to end service on the Media/Elwyn Line if they did not receive the necessary funds to replace the viaduct and make other, smaller infrastructure repairs. Then, after much political wrangling, the state legislature passed Act 89, which will provide $2.3 billion for state transportation projects in the coming years.

The replacement project will commence in around two years and will cost roughly $60 million, said Andrew Busch, a SEPTA spokesman. The design work is ongoing, and the bid for proposals for contracts to replace the viaduct will occur in the coming months, he said. SEPTA has not yet released a formal timeline for the project.

SEPTA does not anticipate that the replacement project will render the line inoperable, but it may cause service interruptions. “There will be a period of time where we will have alternate service in the form of shuttle busing, since there isn’t a way to reroute trains on the Media/Elwyn line,” Busch said.

In the meantime, SEPTA will continue to keep the Crum Creek Viaduct in operable condition.

“We will continue to have ongoing maintenance and repairs on the viaduct to keep it in condition to operate,” said Busch.

SEPTA has also said it will begin to move forward on a project to extend the Media/Elwyn line three miles to a new station in Wawa, PA.


Crum Creek installation to bring environmental art to campus

in Around Campus/Arts by

Crum Creek 2 Ian Holloway WORDPRESS2

As freezing temperatures and accumulating precipitation keep the student population inside for the most part, the sheer beauty of Swarthmore’s campus can be nearly forgotten by many of us. Even as we settle into the lively ambiance of spring, we often take for granted the landscape and life forms we pass day to day as we head off to class.

You may have wondered what the several poles lined up between Sharples and Magill walk are for. They are the foundations of what sculptor Stacy Levy is calling the Crum Creek Meander. The exhibit is part of this year’s Cooper Series which offers lectures, performances, and exhibitions that expand upon the cultural and intellectual life of Swarthmore.

Levy is a sculptor that works primarily with natural patterns and ecological processes such as water flow. Much of her work sets out to demonstrate nature’s narrative and the changes that occur at a particular site. “My work is all about showing how nature works. Showing the changes over time that are sometimes difficult to see.”

The Crum Creek Meander will be designed such that sheets of vinyl resembling water will be attached to poles to form a curtain-like serpentine structure. It will be approximately 300 feet long and illuminated at night. It is intended to reflect the flow patterns of the Crum Creek and remind students how near they are to this waterway with a life and story of its own.

Though this project is on Swarthmore’s campus, much of Levy’s work sets out to remind city-dwellers of their relationship to nature and nature’s responsibility in their lives. Through works such as the Bushkill Creek Curtain Project (Easton, PA), Levy draws people’s attention to a particular site with the hope that they will consider it more profoundly. “As they cross the bridge they’re not just thinking about what they’re going to get at DD, but they’re gonna pause and admire their incredible stream. Because I’m gonna add something unusual for them to look at. And maybe they’ll always look over the edge of this bridge and think about the changeability of nature but also the permanence of it too.”

Levy uses industrial materials to construct her works, stating that just as nature is not separate from us neither are these materials. She holds that looking at something through a different medium can illuminate things that were not noticed before. When one talks about nature using industrial materials, it forces one to rethink the natural environment. “The Crum Creek is not the same creek that it was a hundred years ago. In a sense, it isn’t as natural and it’s just worth considering the repercussions of us living in nature.”

Levy graduated from Yale University with a BA in Sculpture and studied at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. She relates that the use of vinyl for this project is somewhat of a nod to Christo and Jeanne-Claude of whom she learned as part of her art history studies. The duo created The Gates, a Central Park exhibit that ran in February 2005. The project used several thousand sheets of vinyl and stretched over twenty-five miles of the park. Levy explains that revisiting others work serves as inspiration for some of her projects.

In addition to the Crum Creek Meander, Levy’s installation Waterways will be exhibited at the List Gallery from March 5th to April 5th. Levy will make a map of the Crum Creek using glass and plastic containers filled with water. It is possible that the water’s evaporation will result in the growth of algae similar to that of the actual creek.

Students may participate in the construction of the exhibit by contributing clean and label free glass or plastic vessels. Levy will also give a lecture “Constructing Nature: What Art Reveals” on March 5th at 4:30 in the LPAC Cinema. A reception in the List Gallery will follow.

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