It is scenic: She can look out just about any window on the creek side of her house and see the water, a mere 100 yards or so away. She can hear it rippling over the rocks. During last winter's storms, she could hear the thunder of the big plates of ice grinding their way south.
Shuler and her husband moved to their rural oasis in southern Chester County 12 years ago from northern Wilmington because "we didn't want our son to grow up there."
Now, Shuler is co-chair of a grass-roots group working to have the White Clay watershed included in the national Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
Technically, it is neither wild nor scenic, in the grand scheme of national definitions, but as a historic, recreational and natural resource, according to its fans, it rates inclusion under the federal protection program.
The designation does little more than guarantee that no federal projects - such as a dam or a bridge - will be built over the waterways. But before the watershed can be designated, residents and officials must agree on a management plan that, in effect, maps the future of the watershed. This is where the protection succeeds - or fails.
Last week, at meetings in West Grove and Newark, Del., residents got an update on the effort.
None of it was really a surprise.
A draft "resource and issues" report documented and enumerated what they already believed: The watershed is rich in historical and natural attributes.
And the landowner survey elaborated on what they already knew they wanted to do: Protect it.
The update sessions were yet another step along the lengthy, meeting-filled grass-roots path that can trace its beginnings to more than a decade ago when groups of residents began wondering how to protect the waterway.
In 1991, Congress and President Bush approved a study of the river to determine whether it was eligible for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, and last year 17 different government entities - 13 municipalities, two counties and two states - signed a pact agreeing to work on the study.
Hundreds of rivers across the nation have been included, but this is the first time an entire watershed is being considered. The proposal is integral to the recognition that waterways are not isolated, that you can't just protect a section of a waterway, and that to have an effect on the water you have to control what happens on the adjacent lands.
"The emphasis has gone from saving a segment here and a marsh there, to saving entire ecosystems," said Kevin Coyle, of American Rivers, a conservation group in Washington, D.C. "We talk about rivers as being veins and arteries of the continent. The need at this point is to figure out, if you're going to protect ecosystems, where do you start? The answer is watershed planning."
The White Clay is considered to be one of the few "relatively intact, undisturbed and functioning river systems remaining in the highly congested and developed Northeast," according to the draft eligibility report.
Emerging as a trickle in the form of seepages and springs in central Chester County, the White Clay and its myriad feeder streams and branches wind their bucolic way through farm fields, past historic mills, even - appropriately enough - past the Academy of Natural Sciences field lab, the Stroud Water Research Center.
The watershed is habitat to a number of threatened species and provides drinking water for the entire region, including the city of Newark.
Yet the White Clay has not escaped the intrusion of the 20th century. Its junction with the Christina River in Delaware is at the vast Churchman's Marsh, which is split by Interstate 95 and is near a Superfund site.
This section alone is ineligible for inclusion in the Wild and Scenic Rivers System.
The landowner survey, mailed randomly to residents in the watershed, elicited strong support for protecting the watershed. Most indicated they would support an overall conservation plan and land-use regulations. More than a third said government agencies were not doing a good job managing the area. Choosing among a set of options, most felt a coalition of public and private organizations should manage the watershed.
Negative reactions were minimal. Only 4.5 percent of those who responded indicated they favored "aggressive development" and opposed any conservation efforts.
The comments in favor of conserving the White Clay were often vehement: ''Don't let the greedy developers get their slimy paws on the White Clay Creek any more," one wrote.
Shuler said she was pleased with all the work, which has involved hundreds of volunteers. "For some people, it involved three, four meetings a month," Shuler said. "That's a lot."
The next step is to come up with a draft management plan. Among the hundreds of ideas proposed last week, the plan could include sample land-use and water-conservation ordinances for municipalities to adopt, a register for cultural resources, and a plan to develop additional recreational trails.
Chuck Barscz, a representative of the National Park Service who is advising the group, said the plan could be ready by next fall. Once everyone agrees on it, then the group can make plans to go before Congress and ask for the final approval to be included in the system. Barscz said he did not anticipate this happening before 1996.
Shuler is hardly discouraged by the lengthy process. Her own time line puts her in league with the White Clay for the rest of her life. "I have found the place where I will always be," she said. "It's a very peaceful thing to live near this water. It is like no other. If I ever leave here, it will be in a box."