Why We’re a Wildlands Family

The Snyders Connect with Lands We Protect

Wildlands nurtures a conservation ethic across generations through hands-on nature discovery and get-outdoors adventures. And last year was no exception! We celebrated 20 years of our nationally recognized Bike & Boat Adventures program, the delivery of environmental education to every school district in the Lehigh Valley and meaningful lessons in the creek, along the river, on the trail (and sometimes) in the classroom for more than 21,000 school-age children.

Among them is one intrepid Caty Snyder, a 13-year old seasoned summer camper, master of Eastern Pennsylvania birdsong, water-penny accountant, tree climber and environmental steward.

Dad Scott recently shared a heartfelt letter about the family traditions they’ve formed in connection with the local, natural lands Wildlands has protected forever. 

Our family has a holiday tradition. Every Easter, we celebrate the arrival of spring with a visit to the Wildlands Conservancy. We look for early flowers; we check the pond for frog eggs; we listen for spring songbirds. We check in with our favorite trees. We’ve been doing it since we moved to Emmaus, almost ten years ago now. It’s just one of the many days we spend there every year — but it’s the one we most look forward to.

The Sanctuary and the South Mountain Preserve trails are among our favorite places. For Caty, 13, who is on the Autism spectrum, there’s no better salve for her anxiety than to spend a couple hours in the woods — and no better way to show off her extensive knowledge of nature. Wildlands Camp has been the highlight of her summers since she was old enough to attend, and her sister, Hannah, 7, looked on in envy for several years before she was old enough to start going too.

Caty has found enough water-pennies to earn her “macrodollar,” and I think every teacher she’s had since first grade has ended the year knowing more about aquatic macroorganisms than they did when they started.

Over the spring and summer, we check in on the frogs — we call it their “frogress” — and climb in the branches of the yew cave and wade in the creek on warm days. Through summer and fall, we look out for foxes and turtles and deer, which both of the kids are better at spotting than their parents. We identify the songbirds (well, Caty does, from her extensive mental catalog of eastern Pennsylvania birdsong) and say hi to the waterfowl. Once, we spotted a bald eagle, swooping up to the sky on its way north.

Wildlands is where we go to put the gadgets away, forget about homework, and remember what the mud feels like under our shoes. To have such a place five minutes from our home has been absolutely a blessing — like medicine. I can’t imagine our life without it.