Former executive director and lately conservation director still isn't sure what to do with his leisure time
Sitting at his empty desk at the Brandywine Red Clay Association’s offices outside West Chester, Pa., Bob Struble, Jr., thinks he still has a few things left to take care of before stepping down as conservation director after 43 years.
“We’re working things out so that I am available on a limited basis,” he said. “As time goes on, I hope I can continue downstream, as they say.”
Originally from the Kennett Square/Unionville, Pa., area, Struble graduated from Unionville High School in 1962, and did a four-year stint in the Navy before completing his postgraduate studies in urban and regional planning.
Starting at the Chester County Planning Commission, Struble eventually stepped into his position at the BRCA when his father – who held the position before him – left as executive director after winning a county commissioner race in Chester County.
“He said, ‘two Strubles on the county payroll is one too many, you gotta go,’ and he meant it,” Struble said. “Fortunately, his job was available.”
Struble became conservation director in 2009, when Jim Jordan took over as executive director, leaving him to focus on projects like “Red Streams Blue,” which targets streams identified as “impacted” by federal standards, and implements changes to improve their quality.
“We had just started it, and to get that really geared up required a lot of attention,” he said. “That’s really ramped up since then.”
Working with homeowners, county, and local officials, Struble’s task was to help engineers find the right way to repair the streams so that their flow and the overall water quality met appropriate standards to be removed from the impacted list.
So far, Struble has overseen 18 completed projects, which represents over $5 million in investments since 2010.
He noted that they are currently awaiting EPA approval on a stream they believe is ready to turn “blue.”
“It’s a long process,” he said. “When we started, we thought maybe three, five years for a stream to improve, but now it’s 10 to 20.”
Struble has served on numerous commissions and panels over the years as well, serving in both an educational and expert roles, and has helped implement various other efforts over the decades, including recycling.
They’re also currently working with municipalities to help improve their stormwater management, to prevent further stream erosion through runoff.
At the BRCA annual meeting in October, Struble received the Clayton M. Hoff Award, named for the organization’s first executive director.
Recognizing long-term contributions to the conservation of the valleys’ resources, this is only the sixth time the award has been granted since its inception in 1987.
The BRCA also established the Robert G. Struble Jr. Watershed Conservation Perpetual Fund, with $50,000 in seed money having already been gifted by an anonymous donor.
Through with his full-time duties at the BRCA as of Oct. 31, Struble still isn’t sure what to do with his time off.
“I haven’t thought too much about that,” he said, noting that he still serves on a number of boards that he plans to continue with, and will maybe take a class or two at West Chester University.
“I’d like to do some other volunteering work not related to what I’ve been doing. I’d like to swing a hammer for Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “My wife has a list of course. And there’s some places I’d like to see, nationally and internationally.”
He also has a saxophone and guitar he hasn’t touched in 50 years, and he might tinker on an old car if he gets his hands on one.
“I was a liberal arts major, I’m into everything,” he said with a chuckle.