By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — “Oasis” isn’t the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia. Instead, terms like “concrete” and “urban jungle” seem better descriptors.READ MORE: GUIDE: Where To Watch Fourth Of July Fireworks In Philadelphia Region
But today, if you drive down Lancaster Avenue too fast, you may miss the small structure with a mosaic front that houses a nature sanctuary in the middle of the city.
“The area is called Overbrook,” says Jerome Shabazz, “and I asked– where are the streams, where are the brooks?”
A former longtime employee of the Philadelphia Water Department, Shabazz is now executive director of the Overbrook Art and Environmental Education Center.
The nonprofit organization began in 1998, embedding environment and science education programs in schools. Then, in 2006, Shabazz says he wanted to create an urban environmental center where he could make nature and science accessible to under-served communities. Now it’s home is in the middle of Overbrook, near 61st Street and Lancaster Avenue.
“It was a brownfield site,” Shabazz recalls. “It was abandoned and dilapidated, it had about 20 tons of trash on it.” But he says that he and his board of directors were not deterred.
“As an organization we were teaching people how to transform schools and communities,” he says. “We saw this as a great demonstration project.”
Hear the extended interview with Jerome Shabazz in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 20:17)…