Humble Hut, Massive Effort

Doug Harnsberger at the John Muir Memorial Shelter dedication with the commemorative plaque, and the mule it rode in on. Photo by Sherman Thomas Photography

Doug Harnsberger at the John Muir Memorial Shelter dedication with the commemorative plaque, and the mule it rode in on. Photo by Sherman Thomas Photography

Don’t tell Swarthmorean Doug Harnsberger to take a hike. He may take you literally. Doug has been a hiker and backpacker since his early Boy Scout days in Marin County, California. At age 11, he first trod the Muir Trail through the Sierra Nevada range. “Our troop had gung-ho dads who led us on week-long 50 mile hikes in the summer. It was my first hiking experience.” Doug has been a hiker and outdoorsman ever since, frequently returning to the Muir Trail, and introducing his two children to the high country in their late teens.

Doug’s son John Harnsberger joined him this August on a particularly memorable trip. “Backpacking almost inevitably brings you closer,” Doug says. “You rely on each other; you have to learn how to work together closely.” And this trip had a particularly collaborative aspect; the Harnsbergers were among three groups converging at Muir Pass, 11,955 feet up, to celebrate the dedication of a plaque officially placing the John Muir Memorial Shelter on the National Register of Historic Places.

The designation effort and the logistics were led by Harnsberger, who as a hiker and architect was fascinated by the “exotic” octagonal structure and its place when he first saw it years ago. “One of the themes of this project was to raise the importance of this humble little shelter. It is a symbol of John Muir’s spirit. He is the man who founded the Sierra Club, yet the hut is the only thing that’s ever been constructed to honor him. And it’s in such a dramatic setting — only place on the John Muir trail where you can look 360 degree and not see a tree. You might as well be on the surface of Mars!”

This trip involved a few ceremonial totems and a large cast. Confronted by the late news that the 110 pound bronze bas-relief plaque was delayed, Doug made a photo replica of it. The two-by-three foot, foamcore mounted, plastic wrapped photo survived a spill in a mountain creek on the trip and was ready to serve in the ceremony Doug had prepared.

Father and son made it to Muir Pass on August 24. As the groups converged from various directions the next day, a surprise arrived at the hut via a mule train shortly before the scheduled noontime ceremony was to begin. On the back of one mule was a wooden crate containing the actual plaque created by Richmond, Va., sculptor Paul DiPasquale, which had been delivered through the intercession of the superintendent of Sequoia National Park, Woody Smeck. Another crucial element of the event, “John Muir” (reenactor Frank Helling) puffed into camp just in time to don his antique trail garb and Scottish brogue.

Doug and John Harnsberger on the trail with the replica plaque. Photo by Julia Marshall

Doug and John Harnsberger on the trail with the replica plaque. Photo by Julia Marshall

The ceremony began with Harnsberger and “Muir” sharing, respectively, historical and mystical observations on the shelter and the magical setting. Sierra Club’s association with the National Park Service was commended. The assembly entered the cozy confines of the hut, and the ceremony reached its emotional pitch in song — Loch Lomond and This Land Is Your Land — and in Harnsberger’s benediction. Thus the shelter became officially a national “historic place worthy of preservation.”

And how did the shelter take its peculiar form, which bears no relation to other structures in the Sierra? That’s a story in itself. Sierra Club secretary and backpacking pioneer William Colby had been trying find an appropriate way to honor Muir since the Scotsman’s death in 1914. In February 1930, a donor came to Colby with $6,000 to fund construction of a memorial hut at Muir Pass. At it happened, Harnsberger said, “That month’s issue of National Geographic featured a 40-page article on the trulli huts of southern Italy. Colby opened up the magazine and said ‘that’s the image of what I want to build.’” Colby and Muir will now forever face each other from either side of the plaque.

Another chronicle of the natural world, Sierra magazine (published by the club) has a feature article on the hut and its dedication in its February issue. Coincident with that publication, the Sequoia Parks Conservancy will host a page at to receive donations toward needed mortar joint repointing and other maintenance at the Muir Shelter. Meanwhile, the dedication project and Harnsberger’s efforts are subjects of two documentaries which he hopes might be unified in one film, if a sponsor is found.

One step follows another…

Swarthmore Library’s Planning Vision is 20/20

Swarthmore Public Library Director Amber Osborne

Swarthmore Public Library Director Amber Osborne

What’s the plan? Something new, for starters.

Swarthmore Public Library Director Amber Osborne announced that SWPL has completed its first strategic plan, carefully developed and intended to guide the library through the period from 2017 through 2020. The plan is available for your review at the library, and also available online at

Amber Osborne recently described the process, and the product of nearly a year’s efforts, involving many in the Swarthmore community:

“Despite all the Library already has to offer the community, we are aware that SWPL must continue to grow and adapt in order to meet the changing needs of Swarthmore residents. The 20/20 Vision: Swarthmore Public Library Strategic Plan is the culmination of our effort to set a course for the future of our Library using the community’s input as the North Star.

“The 20/20 Planning Committee began meeting in March of 2016. Our first activity was to gather library staff, board members, and volunteers to participate in a SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results) Analysis to identify both the environment the Library currently operates within, as well as how we envision the Library’s future. Next, we gathered wider public input through an online survey, canvassing in town center, and an interactive bulletin board housed in Borough Hall, spending the following months evaluating the findings and drafting the plan.

“This three year strategic plan sets a course for the future, as well as a new mission for SWPL; based on our community’s input we have built around four priorities: read, meet, discover, and grow. We have created several goals within these priorities, as well as actions we plan to take in order to meet these goals. Some of these goals are small and some are big, but no matter the size we look forward to meeting them all.

“The Library sincerely thanks the community for taking the time to answer our questions with honesty and enthusiasm. We hope you are as excited as us, about the future of Swarthmore Public Library!”

Sober Living; Sobering Realities

On Monday night, Dr. William Heran answered questions from attorneys on both sides at the continuation of the Nether Providence Township zoning hearing regarding 224 N. Providence Road, known as the Providence Recovery House, a sober living facility which opened in 2015. Dr. Heran explained some of the principles, practices and policies of the sober living facility, and gave some insight into the lives of its “guests.”

Dr. Heran and Dung “Gabe” Lau are partners in Providence Treatment Center (PTC), which provides addictions treatment for Providence Recovery House (PRH) residents during their stay at PRH, which may be as long as three months, or much shorter. Lau is also owner of the property at 224, which was cited in September, 2015 by Nether Providence for commercial use of a property zoned for a single family dwelling only. That fall also saw the drug overdose death of a PRH resident, Brian Fetterman, one day after he moved into the house. It is Lau’s appeal of this zoning citation — for operating a business from a home in a residential district — which has occasioned the hearing that began in September, and will continue at least into February, by agreement of the board and the parties following the December installment.

Dr. Heran, a Ph. D. clinical social worker, said that generally PRH only accepts as residents professionals who have been discharged successfully from a recovery program. At PRH, he said, they find a mutually supportive community, with twice-daily AA meetings, medication monitoring, spot substance testing, meditation and yoga, and a requirement of employment or full-time charitable work outside the house, which is locked to them from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A single positive substance test is cause for expulsion, Heran and Lau said, recalling two such episodes from 2015. Heran says that the overall rate of successful long-term sobriety among those who pass through PRH is around 80%.

Heran also spoke to the circumstances surrounding the admittal of Brian Fetterman into the treatment program at PTC and the residential program at PRH. Retrospectively, he concluded that Fetterman was not ready for the program, despite the “effusive” recommendation of staff at his previous extended treatment facility, which Heran suggested was less than complete.

Questions of Lau addressed the controls and safeguards placed upon residents of PRH, his history as owner and resident of the house, and his description of the house as a single family dwelling in public and financial documents. Board chair Jeffrey Sobel pressed questioning of Lau as to why he did not tell the township that the house was the location of a residential facility until he received the citation. Lau responded that he feared a “stigma” would be attached to the house and its residents.

The session became contentious as Lau’s attorney Wendy McLean, township solicitor Michael Maddren, and attorney Vincent Mancini (representing neighbors of 224) in turn objected to questions posed of witnesses and introduction of various items of evidence. One area of agreement was the date of Tuesday, February 9, for continuation — and perhaps conclusion — of the hearing.

Crum Woods Deer Cull Continues

As in the previous seven winters, Swarthmore College will conduct a deer cull in its woods along Crum Creek.

Beginning shortly and continuing into March, trained sharpshooters licensed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission will hunt in prescribed areas at times of low traffic in the woods. These areas will be posted “No Trespassing” for the duration of the cull, and all trails near the active area will be closed.

Deer overpopulation remains a threat both to the long-term regeneration of Crum Woods, and to the safety of users of the woods and drivers on adjacent roads.

Direct comments and questions to



Rachel Host and Christopher White

Chris and Winnie Host of Wallingford are pleased to announce the engagement of their daughter Rachel to Christopher White, son of Arlene and Michael White of Townsville, Australia.

Rachel, a graduate of Hamilton College and James Cook University, is an environmental specialist at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Chris graduated from James Cook University and the University of Queensland, and is employed as an electrical engineer at Amtrak.

The couple met in Townsville while Rachel was working on her master’s degree in marine biology. A November wedding is planned.

Swarthmore SEPTA Riders to See Improvements in Station and System

Arriving soon on track #1: SEPTA key cards.

Arriving soon on track #1: SEPTA key cards.

Swarthmore and other rail stations on the Media-Elwyn line will be modernized between now and the end of winter 2017. Already electrical upgrades have been installed at the Swarthmore station, preparing the way for installation of closed circuit TV cameras, emergency call boxes, station access control, and communication equipment.

The communications equipment represents a substantial upgrade for SEPTA. “All we have now are phone lines,” one station agent said. High-speed internet equipment will be deployed in support of the SEPTA key card system, which in the coming year will replace paper tickets and magnetic-striped rail passes with reusable contactless chip cards to be scanned upon entry and exit from regional trains.

The system has already been installed in some SEPTA buses, trolleys and subway stations in Philadelphia. By June, the key card system should be operational in Swarthmore and at other regional rail stops, as SEPTA nears its goal of unifying the payment system across all its transit modes.

Key cards will be SEPTA branded Mastercards which, when loaded with dollar value, can be used for transit fares. The cards will be scanned at entry points at subway stations, entry doors on buses and trolleys, and by conductors on regional rail cars.

SEPTA assistant vice-president of Engineering Robert Lund also noted that the Swarthmore station is in line for some more visible repairs this year. In late spring, work will begin to paint, re-roof, re-point masonry, replace windows and install skylights.

What to do? What to know!

Great Gift Idea: Scott’s Winter Celebration

Tickets to one of winter’s coolest events are now available for holiday giving.

The Sunday, January 15, Winter Celebration at Scott Arboretum offers good cheer, fellowship among gardeners, and inspirational words and ideas from Jenny Rose Carey.

Carey, a renowned horticultural writer and educator, is director of Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Meadowbrook Farm. She has lectured around the world on subjects historical and horticultural, and will share her passion and knowledge with Scott members and friends in the event at Chang Hou Hall on the Swarthmore College campus.

The event includes hors d’oeuvres and a drink. Preregistration is essential; tickets ($25 apiece) are available to all through and (610) 328-8025.

Holiday Library Hours

Swarthmore Public Library: Closes at 1 p.m. on Saturday, December 24; closed December 25, 26, 31, and January 1 and 2.

Helen Kate Furness Free Library: Closed December 24, 25, 26, 31 and January 1.

What’s the S.T.O.R.Y with Poetry?

Come share your story through poetry at the next S.T.O.R.Y. coffeehouse at Pendle Hill.

The open mike session, led by Darius Lantz and Jesse White, comes Sunday, January 8, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. A $5 donation entitles you to light refreshments and the company of other poets.

The letter theme this month is R (Y comes in February, when a new theme for spring coffeehouses will be announced.) Pendle Hill is located at 338 Plush Mill Road in Wallingford. For more information, visit

Last Chance Duo with Ingrid Rosenback on fiddle and Jack Scott on 5 string banjo and guitar.

Last Chance Duo with Ingrid Rosenback on fiddle and Jack Scott on 5 string banjo and guitar.

Your First Chance for the New Last Chance

Fresh from the release of its new album “Endless Flight,” local duo Last Chance is planning an unusual celebration on Saturday, January 21. Their CD release party at War3house3 in Swarthmore will also be a benefit concert for One Step Away, a Philadelphia organization which serves the homeless.

Last Chance — Jack Scott of Wallingford and Ingrid Rosenback of Swarthmore — have also invited musical friends to join them on stage at War3house3, which Jack describes as “an amazing venue.” The bill for January 21 will also include Rusty & Jan, the Michael Spear Duo, and Square Wheels. All proceeds from the party will benefit One Step Away.

Ticket cost for the performances is $15 in advance; $20 at the door.

The CD is out now at — check it out, buy it as a gift, and plan to get your own copy for free with your admission to the January 21 benefit. Save the date!

Plant the Seeds of a Beautiful Spring

For hardy gardeners, there is no off-season. Winter is a time to prepare for the growing season and learn a few new tricks and techniques to add to your skill set.

The Hardy Plant Society sponsors such an opportunity on Friday, January 13, at its seed propagation workshop, open to all at the modest fee of $10 ($5 for HPS members; cash only).

Alice Doering will lead a hands-on workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., showing how to winter sow in milk jugs, demonstrating techniques like scarification and stratification, and dealing with seeds that are difficult to germinate. You’ll take home what you plant, and if you join HPS that day, you’ll get free admission and take home a gift as well.

The workshop will be held at Jenkins Auditorium at 631 Berwyn Baptist Road in Devon. More information and registration is available at

Quakers in the Movies?

Quakers in the movies: it’s not an oxymoron, says film buff David Butterworth of Merchantville, N.J., who will speak on Monday, January 2, 2017 at Pendle Hill in Wallingford.

Butterworth, author of Celluloid Friends: Cinematic Quakers, Real and Imagined, has counted 22 movies among the whole of film literature that significantly portray the Quaker experience, some badly, some well. He will share film clips of the movies and discuss his research and findings. Copies of Butterworth’s book will be available, as well as free fair trade organic popcorn.

The talk — the first of Pendle Hill’s First Monday forums for 2017 — will be held in the Barn at Pendle Hill, 338 Plush Mill Road in Wallingford. Admission is free, but registration is requested at (610) 566-4507, x. 137 or at

Come Help ‘Build Jerusalem’ in LEGOs

Stephen Schwartz on the map of Jerusalem on which the LEGO model will be built at 10 a.m. on Sunday, January 8, at Congregation Beth Israel. Photo credit: Harris Fogel

Stephen Schwartz on the map of Jerusalem on which the LEGO model will be built at 10 a.m. on Sunday, January 8, at Congregation Beth Israel. Photo credit: Harris Fogel

Congregation Beth Israel in Media and architect Stephen W. Schwartz invite students, their families and members of the public to construct a model of the Old City of Jerusalem entirely out of LEGOs on Sunday, January 8, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The final product will be a 70,000 block structure of Jerusalem built on a 400 square-foot scale map and consisting of the Holy Temple, the Montefiore Windmill, the Tower of David, the city walls, and each of the eight gates.

“Building Jerusalem” is a program that Schwartz runs as a part of a Jewish construction series he created to teach Jewish history through exciting, hands-on activities. Schwartz says that “The beauty of seeing kids and their parents working together is a really great sight.”

This model will become the centerpiece of the “Eliana Andersen Art and Creativity Festival” commemorating the life of a student who passed away in 2005. Those who attend will be performing a “hiddur mitzvah,” the act of enhancing a good deed through art and beauty.

For more information contact Reisa Mukamal at or call (610) 203-7730.

Letters to the Editor

Inaugural Luminaria Walk

Dear Residents:

As part of the Swarthmore Recreation Association’s initiative to increase programming and serve a wider audience, please join us for the Inaugural Luminaria Walking Tour on the evening of January 1.

Meet at the Borough Hall Amphitheater at 5:30 p.m. for a 30-minute guided stroll through the luminaria lined streets in Swarthmore.

This free event welcomes all generations to begin the New Year with feelings of peace, beauty and good cheer. We look forward to seeing many of you there! Sincerely,

The SRA Program Committee
Kevin Barth, Deanna Benner Brandon Lausch, Jean Steinke

Quiet time to reflect

To the Editor:

On Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25, Swarthmore Friends Meeting will hold an extended Meeting for Worship in the traditional manner of Friends. The Meeting House is on the North end of the Swarthmore College campus, at 12 Whittier Place. The Meeting will began at 9 a.m. and end about 11a.m. A Christmas Tea will follow in Whittier Room of the Meeting House, hosted by Virginia Williams Joyce and Paul Joyce Collins Williams. Please, feel free to bring “sweet and tastes” to share.

Amid the busy Christmas activities many Friends value a Meeting for Worship as a time to quietly feel and hear the Divine Presence and reflect on the deeper meaning of this Holiday.

We welcome all to join us, at either 9 a.m. or 10 a.m. and for the Christmas Tea.

Paul Joyce Collins Williams

Thank you!

To the Editor:

Thank you for the mittens, gloves, scarves, boots and other winter clothing which you so generously donated to the Mitten Tree at the Swarthmore Public Library.

Thanks also go to those of you who so kindly contributed money which was used to buy more cold weather items. All donations were brought to Cityteam Ministries in Chester.

Special gratitude goes to librarian Carol Mackin for her help and support. Sincerely,

Jane C. Sottile
Rose Valley

‘Out of proportion’

To the Editor:

“Out-of-towners parking on our streets all day!” Tiny Swarthmore (and it is tiny) is a small part of Delaware County, which is a small part of Pennsylvania, which is a small part of the United States, which is a small part of the Earth.

Human beings are the same whether they live in Swarthmore or not. People move freely around this area no matter where their actual home is. Cancer is such a horrible disease, and the reaction to the Council’s decision is out of proportion to the use of the house.

Sue Lipton