CHESTER COUNTY, PA — This week, The Conservation Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Mt. Cuba Center, and County of Chester completed an 11-year conservation effort along Pennsylvania’s southern border.
Roughly 978 acres of undeveloped land was acquired into State ownership thanks to generous support from Mt. Cuba Center, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Chester County Commissioners.
This conservation milestone protects open space for a diverse array of wildlife and plant species and secures additional public recreation opportunities for the community such as biking, hiking, birdwatching and horseback riding.
Featuring rolling farmlands, open grasslands, wooded terrain and stream corridor, the 978-acre Strawbridge property was officially transferred from The Conservation Fund to DCNR for permanent protection and management.
The preservation of this property secures a contiguous block of open recreation space of nearly 8,000 acres—one of the largest in the region. This week’s acquisition came 11 years after the protection of an adjacent 735-acre Strawbridge property, which was purchased by the Fund and transferred to DCNR in 2009.
That property, now known as the Big Elk Creek section of the White Clay Creek Preserve, contains 2.1 miles of the Mason-Dixon line along the Pennsylvania/Maryland state border, joining the 5,300-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Maryland. Together, the three areas make up one of the largest central open spaces in the Mid-Atlantic.
“Large tracts of open space like this are extremely rare and valuable, especially in such a highly developed and populated area,” said Blaine Phillips, The Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. “This project represents the culmination of a decade of work and steadfast commitment of all the partners including Mt. Cuba Center, Chester County Open Space Preservation and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The result is one of the largest blocks of open space in our region and an opportunity to maintain a bucolic landscape that is quickly vanishing.”
“As pressure from development, climate change, and other threats pose unprecedented risks for biodiversity, one of the most important things we can do to support flora and fauna is to conserve open space and the habitats it comprises,” said Ann Rose, Mt. Cuba Center’s President. “The Strawbridge property extends an important wildlife corridor and provides refuge for a wide array of rare and threatened species. Mt. Cuba Center celebrates this significant conservation achievement and the collaborative work of the partners who made it possible.”
Over 690 separate plant species have been identified on the Strawbridge properties—15 of which are considered endangered or rare in the state of Pennsylvania—including three varieties of orchids and a species of trillium.
The land’s diverse terrain provides habitat for native wildlife species including deer, rabbits, and birds. Rare species such as the regal fritillary butterfly and the short-eared owl are also known to reside here.
Strawbridge supports roughly 3.5 miles of the Big Elk Creek, a tributary of the Elk River and Chesapeake Bay, which preserves critical land within the Chesapeake watershed.
The land encompasses roughly 190 acres of floodplains, 600 acres of woodlands, 100 acres of native grass meadows, and 800 acres of farmland.
Now under DCNR’s ownership, the Strawbridge properties will be managed within the White Clay Creek – Elk Creek Unit as part of the Pennsylvania state park system, and open for public recreation.
“The efforts over the last eleven years to conserve the Strawbridge property were extraordinary,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This department appreciates the efforts of our external partners to make projects like this happen. Through the technical assistance of The Conservation Fund, as well as financial support from Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin and Chester County’s Open Space program, this tremendous property is conserved for the enjoyment of generations yet to come.”
Funding support from Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware was critical in the protection of both Strawbridge properties—both in 2009 and 2020. Dedicated funding was also provided by the Chester County Commissioners and the State of Pennsylvania.
Recognizing the tremendous significance of this land preservation effort, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said: “We applaud the tireless efforts of The Conservation Fund on completing this complex transaction and thank the Strawbridge family and the many other partners involved on this remarkable conservation success. Open space preservation is a big part of the cultural character of Chester County and the benefits of this exciting accomplishment go beyond the important preservation of wildlife and plant species, and the addition of public recreation opportunities. As noted in Chester County’s ‘Return on Environment Report,’ protection of open space such as this increases property values, keeps us fit and healthy, and cuts down of the cost of environmental services by filtering our water, cleaning our air, reducing flooding, slowing stormwater and storing carbon.”
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