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Chester County Press

In Wyn's memory: New Garden purchases 7.8-acre property for preservation

01/11/2022 03:44PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw                    New Garden Township recently purchased the 7.8-acre property once owned by the Hiles family in Landenberg, which will be protected and preserved in perpetuity.

By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

For three decades and from nearly every angle and view, Cindy and Wyn Hiles had the fortune to stand on the back deck of their Landenberg home and watch nature unfold, uninterrupted.

Their 7.8-acre piece of land, tucked into the crevices of a valley off of Penn Green Road, is a painted portrait of the seasons, a nearly silent soundtrack, a playground for the wild things and had been a sanctuary for Cindy, Wyn and their two sons. Over time, the family built a few cottages on the banks of the White Clay Creek below their home and then a suspension bridge, but generally left everything else perfectly untouched.

Cindy and Wyn were even married there, before guests and the steady and persistent sound of the creek.

“The property had a calming effect, and we loved the view,” Cindy said. “We would often muse to ourselves that people pay a lot of money to go on vacation to places that offered the same view that we were blessed to see every day. We would sit on the deck and watch the birds, the fox and the deer, and it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of the I-95 corridor, but that we were living in some wild and open space.”

After Wyn passed away in February of 2016, Cindy discussed potential future options for the home and property, and the resounding opinion was that no one wanted to see the property sold for potential residential development.

Our concern was that it would be developed into two larger homes, because it had been a subdivided property,” Cindy said. “Our main goal was to preserve it as it was and not see any additional development that we didn’t feel was needed.”

In April of 2019, Cindy began discussions with Chris Robinson and Randy Lieberman of the New Garden Township’s Open Space Review Board (OSRB), Kate Raman of Natural Lands and the township’s Board of Supervisors to determine how the property could best be preserved in perpetuity.

Last month, after a few years of negotiations and the acquisition of grant funding and reserves from the OSRB budget, the township settled on the purchase of the Hiles property, and will place an easement on all 7.8 acres.

Property forms major link in township’s open space plans

In terms of land preservation and open space, the Hiles property figures prominently in the township’s mission to preserve the area in the valley along the White Clay Creek and adjacent to Penn Green Road, as part of the township’s Greenways Plan that was adopted in 2009.

Eventually, the township will develop a trail system along the perimeter of the property, which will then form an important link in the township’s long-range goal to create an open space corridor to the White Clay Creek Preserve.  

The acquisition of the Hiles property is the latest rung in the continued progress of the OSRB, who assists landowners with planning to preserve remaining open space for present and future generations to enjoy. To date, the OSRB has purchased, preserved and protected over 450 acres in the township -- including three properties that are located in the vicinity of the Hiles property that when added together total 94.2 acres.

Cindy now lives in Newark, but the property that she once owned will never be far away from her.

“Wyn and I raised our two sons there, and there were a lot of memories, and that’s why it was a difficult and bittersweet decision to leave, because it’s a pretty special piece of ground,” she said. “I am not that far from Landenberg though, and I definitely plan on hiking on the former property and one of my sons is an avid fly fisherman, so I know he will continue to visit.”

In 2020, during a Zoom meeting before the township’s supervisors that formally announced the partnership between the Hiles family and the OSRB, Cindy prepared a statement to read.

“The last sentence of my statement said that preserving habitat on the Wild & Scenic White Clay Creek in perpetuity is a legacy that my family is very proud to be part of,” she said. “My boys and I discussed it, and thought that in the memory of my husband Wyn, we are leaving this legacy behind so that the entire community can access and use it for hiking, fishing and birding. It just felt like the right thing to do.

“We say that we are ‘the owners of the land,’ and while we pay taxes on our properties, I believe in my heart that we are all stewards of the land and we need to protect it and do what we can regardless of who we are.

“The land where we once lived is a magical place to me – with its views and the creek --and when a Bald Eagle soars through there, it takes my breath away.”

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