Open space project receives $1.5 million in state funding
By Richard Gaw
Southern Chester County just got even greener with open space – nearly 1,000 more acres greener.
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman recently announced the acquisition of a $1.5 million Community Conservation Partnerships Program grant, that will be directed to support a multi-phase plan being led by The Conservation Fund that will permanently protect over 1,700 acres along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border that spans Elk, Franklin and New London townships.
The Community Conservation Partnerships Program provides financial and technical assistance to local governments, river and trail organizations, land trusts, and other nonprofits for the planning, acquisition and development of park, recreation, conservation and greenway projects.
The $1.5 million grant is the latest sizable chunk of money that's been earmarked for the second phase of the preservation project, which have also included DCNR C2P2 grants totaling $1 million in 2016 and $1 million in 2017. In addition, the Chester County Department of Open Space committed $5 million in funding, and the Mt. Cuba Center committed $6.25 million. Added up, that's $14.75 million that's been amassed to purchase the property, $1.5 million shy of the $16.25 million purchase price.
Beginning in 2009, The Conservation Fund (TCF) and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources set out to protect the 1,718-acre property owned by George Strawbridge, Jr., purchasing 735 acres that year that were transferred to the state as part of White Clay Creek Preserve. In 2017, the TCF purchased the remaining 982 acres of the property, which will also be managed as part of White Clay Creek Preserve.
“Land preservation is not easy work, but we are fortunate to have such skilled and generous partners, such as The Conservation Fund and the Mt. Cuba Center, in this endeavor,” Dinniman said. “We are now within striking distance of bringing this momentous conservation project to fruition. I am thankful for the incredible progress that has already been made, and confident that we can cross this final hurdle in the year ahead.”
Collectively, the Strawbridge property is the single largest privately-owned property in the area, containing several miles of Big Elk Creek, a tributary of the Elk River and the Chesapeake Bay, and more than 690 different plant species, 15 of which are endangered, rare, threatened or vulnerable. This newly-protected area connects with the 5,565-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area immediately to the south in Maryland, to create a contiguous block of outdoor recreation space in excess of 7,000 acres—one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic.
Funding for the effort came from Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Chester County and Mt. Cuba Center.
“This announcement underscores how important partnerships are leveraging dollars by making these transactions happen,” said Blaine T. Phillips, Jr., Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for The Conservation Fund. “There are three different funding sources in this transaction – Chester County, the State of Pennsylvania and the Mt. Cuba Center – which proves the power in layering our resources together.”
Phillips said that the protection of the Strawbridge property is an example of TCF's commitment model – to connect tracts of land together in a contiguous design.
“This [preservation project] goes to what we're all about,” he said. “We buy land and pass it along to a long-term manager, who will ensure that property's protection for the long run. We're closing in on a decade of working in this project and putting it together with other open space. Often, I think our work can feel incremental, but if you look at this from the standpoint of a map, it's a real milestone. This is a space that you can see from one horizon to the other, and that's a rarity in the Mid-Atlantic region.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.