an unlikely hero

The year is 1953. Ike has just become President and America is in the throes of the post-war boom (jobs and babies are plentiful).

In the Chestnut Hill community of Philadelphia, a mild-mannered accountant and dapper dresser by the name of Allston Jenkins has set his mind on a daunting task. Though still fairly new to the world of bird-watching, Allston has fallen hard for the little winged things and is fighting to save a world-class bird habitat, the Tinicum marshes in southwest Philadelphia.

Shell Oil is planning to dump dredging spoils from the Schuylkill River in the marshes. But then along comes Allston and his friends in the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club. Shell meets its match. Allston prevails and the marshes are saved, establishing what is now the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, the first urban refuge in the country.

But Allston isn’t done. That’s not Allston. He forms a new organization called the Philadelphia Conservationists. In the years that follow, Allston becomes a recognized leader in conservation. He and the Conservationists help to preserve many more acres in the Philadelphia region, assist with the creation of four more National Wildlife Refuges, and even help to establish the first national park in Costa Rica.

Eventually, the Philadelphia Conservationists becomes what is now Natural Lands and Allston leaves a legacy of conservation that touches millions of people in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Not bad for a mild-mannered accountant.