Regarding the preservation of Green Valley Farm
By Steven Hoffman
Letter to the Editor:
For the sake of the public’s right to full and accurate information, I am responding to the
Chester County Press article, “Township may soon back out of delayed land easement deal,” regarding the preservation of Green Valley Farm in New Garden Township. The article referred to the preservation of this historic farm as “an agreement that has become known more for its tardiness than its potential.”
The public has a right to know about Green Valley’s potential and value. I shall give a brief summary of some of the most important facts.
History: Green Valley Farm is the place where New Garden Township began. One of New
Garden’s founding fathers, John Miller, obtained the land that comprises the heart of our
township today, from William Penn’s son. Miller opened his home in 1709 to provide the early
Quaker settlers a place to worship. They called their Quaker meeting New Garden Friends
meeting. Several years later, in 1714, New Garden Township, named for the Meeting founded by
Miller and his group of original settlers, was incorporated. The historic ancestral home of the
Miller family still stands at Green Valley.
Water Quality: Green Valley is home to the headwaters of four streams that converge to become
Trout Run, an important tributary of the Wild and Scenic designated White Clay Creek, New
Garden’s main waterway. The waters of White Clay Creek downstream of Green Valley are used
for drinking water. Making sure the farm’s streams are protected is in the public interest. Also,
Benjamin Reynolds, New Garden’s own State Representative, did pioneering water quality
research at Green Valley which led to methods used today all around the country.
Soils: Virtually all of Green Valley’s soils are “Class 1", the highest quality agricultural soils.
The farm even has a section of soils classified as “of Statewide Importance” by the U.S.
Geological Survey. Green Valley is New Garden’s first organic farm, certified as such since
1982. The farm maintains the best agricultural soils in New Garden Township.
Wildlife: Green Valley is home to the second-largest body of water in the township, created by
Ben Reynolds who also created the largest, Somerset Lake. The farm is a sanctuary to a great
variety of wildlife including swans, great horned owls, osprey and occasionally bald eagles.
These are indicative of a very healthy ecosystem, the importance of which was well explained in
the Chester County Press article.
Vistas: Green Valley currently provides beautiful vistas of green farmland, forest and meadow to
travelers of Baltimore Pike, Penn Green Road and three other smaller roads.
Congestion: Green Valley is what separates Toughkenamon from Avondale. As we all know, the
traffic and congestion on Baltimore Pike is very difficult and costs everyone time. If the farm
were to be developed, there would suddenly be a continuous urbanized area through the middle of
the township for which previous Boards of Supervisors had never planned. Such a development
would add several thousand vehicle trips per day onto already overburdened Baltimore Pike, Route
41 and other local roads.
Taxes: As I believe most people are now aware, residential developments, especially large ones,
lead to increases in school taxes, at greater expense to residents than the cost of preserving open
space. A word must be said about New Garden’s Open Space Review Board. It is made up of
volunteers who give countless hours of their time becoming knowledgeable about the land in the
township and working very had to preserve the quality and character of our community.
Public Opinion: After the open space referendum passed by a large majority of our citizens, a
public meeting was held to allow the people to vote on which properties in the township they
most wanted to be preserved. Green Valley emerged as the second most important property in
New Garden to preserve, according to the people who live here.
Discount: My family and I have agreed to place a conservation easement on Green Valley,
keeping it as Open Space forever. We have offered to do so, to give up our development rights at
a substantial discount to the value of those rights—as determined by the area’s best and most
experienced appraisers more than a 35 percent discount. We are willing to leave a lot of money on the
table. I have lived in New Garden all my life. My family has been here since 1709 and I care
deeply about the township. Bernie McKay, the first and longest serving chairman of the Open
Space Review Board, said in the public meeting that the price for this Conservation Easement is
not fair to the Reynolds family. Nonetheless I remain willing, the money saved by the township
can be used to save other Open Space in my community.
Apparently there is a rather loud voice on the Board of Supervisors who is concerned that
it’s taking some time to complete this agreement and would rather just rescind it. A good
businessman understands the value of deferred payment. The township is saving money
every day as its funds sit and collect interest and inflation decreases the value of the ultimate
Good supervisors should make the effort to acquaint themselves with the facts. There are
some great experts on conservation merits and values in our area, from our own Open Space
Review Board to Natural Lands Trust, The Land Conservancy and Brandywine Conservancy. I
invite anyone with questions to do some homework. I think they’ll find that preserving Green
Valley at the price agreed upon represents great bang for the buck. Township supervisors should
act based on facts and the will of the people, not based upon politics and personal agendas.
Preserving Green Valley is not about one person or family. It is about the quality of life of New
Gardeners now and for future generations.
New Garden Township