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Chester County Press

New Garden Board hears presentation on township's 105-acre purchase

06/22/2021 08:06PM ● By Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

At their June 21 online meeting, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors heard the broad brushstrokes that will paint the future of the 105-acre Smedley property – commonly known as the 18-hole Loch Nairn Golf Course – that the township recently purchased for the purpose of converting to open space and two miles of trails.

The presentation – given by Kate Raman of Natural Lands, who is also a consultant to the township’s Open Space Review Board (OSRB) – was the follow-up to the supervisors’ June 7 work session, when they authorized the township to extend the funds to purchase the property, located in the northwest corner of the municipality – for $1.425 million.

Under the conditions of the agreement, golfing operations at Loch Nairn will continue through the 2022 golf season. Once concluded, the township will assume ownership and begin conversion and maintenance of the property, likely starting in 2023.

Loch Nairn will continue to own and operate all of its restaurants on the property, which includes The Greathouse, The Farmhouse and The Tavern, as well as use these facilities as sites for weddings and other special events.

In her presentation, Raman provided data on how the property will fit in with the township’s priorities to conserving open space, provide trail access and enhance climate resilience.

Natural Lands preliminary restoration plan for the 105-acre property identifies plant species that are not only suitable to the site but will survive the projected increase in temperatures and precipitation that are forecasted for the future.

The plan also includes methods to manage waterway tributaries to the White Clay Creek within the property; proposed meadow planting areas; and strategies to develop woodlands that will contribute to both weather resilience and water quality throughout the property.

Raman clarified that the concept to convert the property is in draft form, and that a formal site plan will require the gathering of additional information.

The size of the township’s portion of the purchase cost will be defrayed by an $863,700 grant it recently received from the Chester County Preservation Partnership Program, as well as additional grants totaling $24,000 that have come from the Mars Project and the White Clay Wild & Scenic. The balance of the cost -- $615,300 -- will be funded through the township’s Open Space Fund, a figure that could become as small as $28,000 if the OSRB receives a $587,000 it has applied for through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

While Raman said the cost of the site preparation, conversion, restoration and maintenance for the newly-acquired property is still not known, the project will be done in collaboration with the Stroud Water Research Center, who will also provide assistance in securing possible grant funding.

“This is land that would have been prime real estate for a developer and a development, so this is a huge win for the township in terms of resources,” supervisor Kristie Brodowski said. “I think the Smedleys did an amazing thing for the community to preserve this beautiful piece of property.”

“It’s a pristine piece of land that’s in the exceptional value watershed of the White Clay, and it would absolutely hurt the quality of water if that were ever developed,” said supervisor Steve Allaband.

In other township business, the board authorized an amendment to the township’s 2021 budget that will increase its contribution to the Avondale Fire Company’s EMS Division from $119,600 to $147,500 – a $27,900 increase.

Allaband, Brodowski and township Manager Ramsey Reiner have been meeting recently with the fire company’s management in an attempt to assist its financially-strapped ambulance unit.

“What we found was that Avondale’s ambulance unit is on track for probably the busiest year for call volume, which was not estimated when we originally adopted the budget,” Allaband said.

The township also adopted a new recycling ordinance, in compliance with state mandates.  

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].