Schuylkill Center takes over Roxborough’s Toad Detour

After starring in their own film, the toads of Roxborough are getting even more attention from their human helpers. Last weekend, in tandem with the premiere of filmmaker Burgess Coffield’s Toad Detour documentary at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education, Toad Detour founder and director Lisa Levinson announced that next year, the Center will officially take over efforts to aid local toads in their migration.

Levinson, three years after founding this unique effort to help vulnerable amphibians, is leaving the area for California. She gratefully calls the Schuylkill Center the “perfect new home for the Toad Detour.”

Schuylkill Center Executive Director Mike Weilbacher agrees, noting that the conversation about a possible adoption of the Detour program began this past fall. He lauds the “extraordinary effort” of Toad Detour volunteers over the last few years, and thought their mission would be a great fit for the work of the Schuylkill Center, since the survival of the toads is vital to the local ecosystem.

“The toads are coming out of our forest to mate in our reservoir,” he says affectionately. “What I love about the toads is that they’re our toads.” He describes the three-part migration that the Schuylkill Center will now be working to protect: the toads’ “en masse” springtime trek across the roads that border the Roxborough Reservoir, the more gradual, piecemeal return of the adult toads to their forest home, and the early summer march of thousands of baby toadlets who make their way from the water to join their parents in the woods.

During all of these movements, volunteers are needed to track and count the toads, help to move them if necessary, enact temporary detours around affected roads, and inform passing motorists of the project. In this case, “Detour” is actually an acronym for “Detour for Emerging Toads of Upper Roxborough”, though as early as last year, volunteers also noticed that it’s not only toads who reap the benefits of the program: the brown-spotted Pickerel Frog also joins the parade, though its numbers can’t match the army of toads.

While Weilbacher notes that predictions on the Detour’s future are difficult because the Center is still “getting a sense of what the program will be” in their first year of official involvement, he has high hopes for the toads’ future. The Schuylkill Center has a wide range of volunteers for a number of programs, and while new volunteers are also welcome, he hopes that existing Center volunteers will be able to apply their efforts to the toads as well, for an easy increase in the amphibians’ allies.

He also points to local celebrations for Earth Day or Groundhog Day – why couldn’t a Toad Day be in Roxborough’s future? With its greater pool of volunteers and resources, the Center could even host a local springtime “Toad Festival” to raise awareness for the migration. He says other new programming opportunities will no doubt be in the works.

Weilbacher enjoys focusing efforts on an often-forgotten segment of the animal population. “It’s unusual for a cold-blooded animal to get so much press,” he says, versus the more cuddly, furry “big-eyed” mammals that usually capture our attention. “The Toad Detour has placed a wonderful spotlight on these amphibians.”

Community members interested in becoming involved should contact Schuylkill Center volunteer coordinator Claire Morgan at cmorgan@schuylkillcenter.org or 215-0482-7300, x127.

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