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Brandywine River Restoration Trust

An Evolving Mission

A non-profit organization known as Brandywine Shad 2020 was founded in 2017 by riverside residents Hunter Lott and Jim Shanahan of Wilmington, Delaware. The group was instrumental in enlisting a broad coalition of partners (more about that below) with a common objective: work towards removing the impediments to shad migration in the Delaware portion of the lower Brandywine. The impediments are primarily a number of old industrial dams no longer in use.

After efforts by the coalition and others, success was measurable. The removal of one dam in Delaware and one in Pennsylvania clearly demonstrated that the hoped for results were in fact achievable — and that the payback warranted the effort.

Brandywine River Restoration Trust founders Jim Shanahan (l) and Hunter Lott III (r)

BRRT Goal: Restore and protect the Brandywine River to enable migration of American Shad and improve ecological function while providing equitable opportunity for environmental education and recreation

It also became evident that advocacy groups such as Brandywine Shad 2020 that have been working separately in Pennsylvania and Delaware could gain considerable synergy by coordinating their efforts more closely.

In addition, goals indirectly related to restoring shad migration — such as ecological improvements, stream beautification, flood mitigation, natural resource utilization and long-range maintenance and sustainability — could be realized simultaneously.

And so this natural, organic evolution has lead Brandywine Shad 2020 to be renamed Brandywine River Restoration Trust. The new name is more reflective of the broader long-range objectives. As the work and research continues, those involved in the effort are learning things about urban, highly dammed waterways that could inform work in other parts of the state and the larger Delaware Bay and River watershed.

Mission Explained


All the activities required to restore the river to its natural state, first and foremost being dam removal and creation of fish passages, but also including pollution control and clean-ups.


Once restored, keep it protected by maintenance of fish passages, stocking juvenile shad, ongoing pollution control and river clean-ups.

Enable the Migration of American Shad

Our original, still primary objective, not just for shad but all migratory fish

Improve Ecological Function

Expansion of the quantity and variety of flora and fauna residing in the river that naturally occurs when rivers become free flowing, and aquatic organisms can travel freely up and down the river

Provide Equitable Opportunity

The many benefits accruing through the work of B.R.R.T. must be made available equally to all members of society. Special efforts will be made to include low-income residents of Wilmington, particularly youth.

For Environmental Education

Any activity that expands people’s knowledge of the river and how to protect it. This includes not just education in the formal sense, but communication to the public through events, social networks and media coverage.

For Recreation

The more people use and enjoy the river, the more they are willing to take action to help and protect it, and the larger the benefit to society. Activities include but is not limited to fishing, boating, swimming and hiking.

Shad caught by an angler, spring 2020. Image courtesy of the Brandywine Conservancy.

Participants & Supporters

Brandywine River Restoration Trust has had no employees, relying instead on a four-person Board of Directors, the University of Delaware, partner environmental organizations, government agencies, engineers, consultants and volunteers.

We have enjoyed significant success in raising funds. With no paid staff or fundraising consultants, we have raised over $1.5 million and completed the many goals identified in our past grant awards.

Since 2017, thousands of hours have been volunteered for outreach, public education and gaining citizen involvement with our goal of restoring American Shad to the Brandywine River. These efforts have resulted in awareness of and support for our mission. Excitement for what we are trying to accomplish is growing.