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Chester County Press

A gateway to nature: Land Conservancy opens new headquarters

08/17/2015 01:47PM ● Published by Richard Gaw


By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

It can safely be said that over the course of the last decade, the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County created the 12-mile loop trail that is now the first phase of the Red Clay Greenway Trail System, piece by single piece.

Armed with roll-up-the-sleeves dedication, vision and the kindness of neighbors, the TLC is now forging the next link to the trail system – the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve – which includes the historic bridge that the conservancy group fought tirelessly to save. Indeed, the bridge is about to be preserved for future generations under the ownership of Kennett Township who is collaborating with the TLC to convert the century-old structure into a pedestrian-only bridge.

Although it is largely known for its its link-by-link, step-by-step fortitude, the TLC now has a new home that is so perfectly located in the epicenter of its mission that it seems as if it literally fell from the sky.

On July 10, the TLC staff moved from its former headquarters on Route 926 to Walnut Hill, just over the Chandler Mill Bridge in Kennett Square. Operated as a bed and breakfast for 27 years by Sandy and Tom Mills, it served as the longest-running B & B of its kind in Kennett Square. The home traces its beginnings to the 1840s, when it operated as a tenant house to a nearby gristmill.

The new location increases the square footage of TLC's headquarters from 972 square feet to 2,700 square feet.

The aquisition of the Walnut Hill home coincides with a generous donation of 45 acres of preserve from the Brokaw family that is located nearby the new headquarters -- all of which has been rolled into the Red Clay Greenway Trail System.

"The stars aligned on this," said TLC Executive Director Gwen Lacy. "We were bursting at the seams at our other location, and we thought, 'Wait a second. What if we just purchased the Mill's house at Walnut Hill?' The entire process that enabled us to come here was very organic, and it was just one of those things that you feel it was just meant to be."

The new headquarters won't just be a place for offices and meetings rooms. The two-floor home will also provide overnight accommodations for visiting naturalists, conservationists and guest speakers, and an adjoining garage will be converted to an interpretive nature center. Currently being designed by Wayne Simpson Architects, the interpretive nature center is expected to be completed by 2017, and will display maps, provide historical perspectives and feature a floor-to-ceiling window treatment that will open up to the beginning of the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve just across the street. It will also hold taxidermy donated from the Tyler Arboretum.

"The interpretive center will allow us to have a dedicated space to conduct our educational programs," Lacy said. "Visitors will now be able to come in, look around, receive education about the Preserve and the adjoining Greenway, and then we can head out onto the land. More than 75 acres awaits them, right outside our doors."

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.



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