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Group 2 Delaware River Watershed Initiative


Wildlife Refuge Rises from Former Golf Course

In the Poconos, people are flocking to the fairways, not to play golf, but to explore and connect with nature, and that means cleaner water for everyone.

The former Cherry Valley Golf Course near Stroudsburg is now a 193-acre wildlife sanctuary—where manicured greens once ruled, today you’ll find people strolling the former golf cart paths, enjoying the opportunity to watch extensive habitat restoration at the new Cherry Valley National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters.  

Run-off from fertilizers and herbicides—often used heavily on golf courses—can create problems when rains carry pollution into nearby waterways. Establishing a healthy streamside buffer on the site will help remove pollutants, which means cleaner water flowing through the area.  

“The presence of existing forest and Cherry Creek allowed our partners to hit the ground running in restoring this property to a more native state,” said Bud Cook from The Nature Conservancy. “Remnants from the former golf course—paved paths, bridges and gazebos—now make it easy for visitors to explore the Refuge, glimpse wildlife, have a picnic or enjoy great hiking and fishing.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, together with many partners, is transforming former greens and fairways into native habitat to attract species found within the broader refuge, including bats, bald eagles and other birds of prey, freshwater mussels, American eels and wildflowers.

The creek that runs through the refuge and surrounding forests make it an ideal place to protect clean water and wildlife habitat. Cherry Valley residents are proud of the open space that everyone can use.

The refuge is open to the public while restoration work continues. The former golf clubhouse has been transformed into a visitors center and golf cart paths have been re-purposed into nature paths accessible to people with disabilities. In the year since the property was protected, USFWS has documented 8,000 visits, and 2,000 people have used the visitors center, participating in 23 community events.  

This work is part of a regional clean water initiative dubbed the Delaware River Watershed Initiative. The Delaware River Watershed Initiative is among the country’s largest non-governmental conservation efforts to protect and restore clean water—a first-of-its-kind collaboration involving 65 non-governmental organizations working together to protect and restore the Delaware River and its tributaries, which provide drinking water for 15 million people in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and Delaware.

Featured photo credit Dick Ludwig.