12th annual dip into the Brandywine raises funds for water conservation and education

It just sounds so antithetical to self-preservation, stripping down near naked and dashing into a chilly creek in the dead of winter.

Yet somehow, for the past 11 years, Jim Jordan – executive director at the Brandywine Red Clay Valley Alliance – has convinced thousands of people to do just that, all in the name of water conservation.

“Is it comfortable, plunging into the Brandywine Creek in the middle of February? Absolutely not,” Jordan said. “But it’s nice to be able to challenge yourself.”

Since its inception 12 years ago (the Plunge went on hiatus during the BRCA merger a few years back) “Plungers,” as they are affectionately referred to, have raised over $150,000 to help fund BRCA watershed restoration and conservation projects, and to spread the news about the importance of clean water.

“People always ask why we do it, and it’s multifaceted,” Jordan said. “But really, it’s to promote how important clean water is, and how people can take it for granted. The waters we’ll be plunging in on Feb. 9 outside Chadds Ford? If you live in Northern New Castle County, it could be coming out of your tap 24 hours later.”

Jordan added that having the water safe for recreation is just as important as it being clean and potable, noting how the Brandywine has improved over the past 25 years.

“Our objective is ‘drinkable, fishable, swimmable,’ but [clean water] is imperative for the ecosystem, from macroinvertebrates to the fish, to the birds and animals that rely on that fish,” Jordan said. “There’s a reason we’ve been seeing Bald Eagles and ospreys in the watershed again, and it’s because we have a good population of fish again. It’s all intertwined, and it’s not all about people – it’s about our obligation to the natural world.”

Jordan said that with a record rainfall over the past year, many area creeks are surging with runoff – and the Brandywine is no exception.

That said, Jordan said organizers would be waiting until the days before the event to decide how far people will be trudging through the creek.

“The flow is really strong this year,” Jordan said. “Safety is key – it’s a hardcore event, but not a dangerous one.”

Even though it’s broached the decade mark, Jordan said the Plunge remains both a rite of passage for many, as well as one of the biggest conversation starters throughout the year.

“People are so intrigued by it,” he said. “They’ll come up and say, ‘oh, you’re that organization that does the Plunge! I’ve seen the video!’ So it’s still a huge thing.”

The BRCA Polar Plunge is sponsored by WSFS, Trail Creek Outfitters, Longwood Rotary, Hickory House Catering, Brandywine Picnic Park, Brandywine Fine Properties-Sotheby’s, Weeds, Inc., Embreeville Mill, Aztec Printing, Brandywine Valley Heating, Del Bittle Music, and Meadow Springs Farm. Presenting sponsor is Flyway Excavating.