Welcome back to our series of interviews with the organizations we proudly support at Harvest Market! This month, we had the opportunity to speak with The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County, which is located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Harvest Market is honored to be one of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County’s Businesses for Conservation.
Harvest Market: Please tell our readers about The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County and how it got started.
The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC): The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) began several decades ago and was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) in 1995 as the all-volunteer Kennett Township Land Trust. A transition in 2010 led to the expansion of our mission and name change to increase our focus on the greater Southern Chester County region. TLC’s mission is to ensure the perpetual preservation and stewardship of open space, natural resources, historic sites, and working agricultural lands throughout Southern Chester County. Our first easement was completed in 1999 and since then, TLC has protected approximately 1300 acres with 400 additional acres in progress. TLC owns nearly 500 of the 1300 acres outright with the majority of this land open to the public for passive recreation. TLC manages land to best protect its natural resources while allowing public enjoyment. We have found that being on the land is one of the best ways to encourage a love of our natural resources and a passion for keeping open space open.
Harvest Market: Which of your properties are open to the public?
TLC: We operate five public nature preserves in Kennett Township, PA, with a sixth in the works located in Elk Township. Of our Kennett preserves, our most well-known is Stateline Woods Preserve, which spans the Pennsylvania and Delaware borders and is located off Merrybell Lane in Kennett Township. Marshall Mill House Preserve is a smaller, wooded preserve located on Creek Road/Rt 82 just north of the state line. The soon to be expanded Marshall Bridge Preserve is located behind Delaware’s Auburn Valley State Park and access is through their parking lot (Delaware currently has their lot closed for construction, but it should be open again by June). New Leaf Eco Center, a small property on Rosedale Rd and home to our apiary, is in the process of being transformed from just a demonstration site to a sensory garden with its short trail, stream crossing, and mix of meadow and woodlands. TLC imagines this to be an ideal property for our smallest nature lovers as we make this transition.
Chandler Mill Nature Preserve, located at TLC’s Walnut Hill headquarters, includes two public trails following the Bucktoe and Red Clay Creeks with the western trail ending at the New Garden Memorial UAME Church cemetery, home to 8-9 Civil War Colored Troops’ veterans along with over 100 other residents. The interior of the Preserve is open via educational programming to protect high quality natural habitat and a variety of historic resources.
Our sixth preserve, the Little Elk Creek Preserve, is located on the Pennsylvania/Maryland border in Elk Township and contains 180 acres of meadows, woodlands, wetlands, and over a mile of the Little Elk Creek and its tributaries. TLC is in the process of getting the property opened via parking and initial trails and hopes to have it open this fall so stay tuned for announcements!
Harvest Market: What educational programs and events are you organizing for this time of year?
TLC: The spring and summer are exciting and busy times at TLC and we just have enough space here to highlight a few! We are looking forward to big annual events like our 12th consecutive Run for Conservation at Stateline Woods on June 15. Sponsored by the community-minded Trail Creek Outfitters, the 5K and 10K trail races kick off at 8:30am and will feature fantastic prizes with all proceeds benefitting TLC’s conservation and stewardship projects. There will also be a free kid’s corner to entertain little ones during the featured races and a 1K Fun Run to wrap up the festivities.
Free Time Adventures commences on July 9 when kids ages 5-12 can reboot, recharge and laugh together at our interactive outdoor summer program which focuses on helping young people create a common bond with the natural world while building independence, enhancing problem-solving prowess and teaching stewardship skills. On June 8, the Chester County Astronomical Society (CCAS) will join TLC at Bucktoe Creek Preserve for a Sky Tour from 8:00pm-9:30pm. CCAS will generously provide access to their amazing array of scopes and answer any questions that the wonders of the night sky might inspire.
Open Hive Days are underway at our New Leaf Eco Center with apiarist Michael Langer of the Brandywine Bee Company. Each month’s outing features a focused topic, practical bee-keeping advice, an up-close look at a hive during routine inspection, raffle prizes, and a fourth Open Hive Day for free if you attend three of the six scheduled for the 2019 season.
Looking ahead to the fall, TLC will again be a host site for the state-wide Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program. The 50-hour training course is comprised of classroom lectures and hands-on field trips covering topics from geology to wildlife biology with a stated goal of developing a local corps of “master volunteers and service providers” dedicated to the understanding and management of natural areas within their communities. Please check our webpage at tlcforscc.org/education for updates and more programming!
Harvest Market: How are your efforts funded?
TLC: Land preservation funding comes from private foundations, municipalities, county, state, and federal government grant programs. In 24 years, TLC has raised over $15.5 million specifically for land preservation. This does not include the funding to cover the work behind the scenes, our educational programming, and land management duties, which are covered by a variety of sources such as foundations, donations, and memberships.
Harvest Market: What role does a conservation organization play in educating our community about the environment?
TLC: Environmental Education helps people understand how their choices and actions affect the world around them. TLC offers a broad array of programs for all ages focused on conservation and environmental knowledge in the hopes of providing a lasting base of environmental literacy, stewardship and problem-solving skills for all members of our community. We believe that helping people become well-versed in the underlying principles of nature and wildlife, will encourage them to act on their own to conserve natural resources and be able to make informed decisions to help keep our environment healthy and sustainable for the future. By working with local businesses, like Harvest Market, and township initiatives such as Kennett’s Community Based Land Stewardship Initiative (CBLS), we can deliver our message to a broad audience in engaging and meaningful ways.
Harvest Market: What is it like to do this work along the borders of two neighboring states–Delaware and Maryland?
TLC: TLC has preserves abutting Delaware state properties and Stateline Woods crosses the DE/PA state line and so we regularly coordinate with other groups to manage our properties in association with their management plans. We also collaborate on how to make interstate trail networks to better improve access for area residents of both states. As we begin a similar process in Elk Township, we are coordinating with private groups in Maryland and we hope to create a cohesive property for increased benefit to the public. The Maryland project will continue to develop over the next few years. Furthermore, TLC is coordinating with Pennsylvania’s State Parks department as we are continuing to acquire land adjacent to the White Clay Creek Preserve that will be turned over to the state in the future. Collaborations such as these are enjoyable because we know the work is creating a larger property to enjoy, but they can be challenging as every government entity or private group has a different focus and may not consider our vision to be reflective of theirs or as much of a priority. Residents in the Hockessin/Kennett area have a lot to look forward to as partnerships continue to emerge and flourish and new spaces are created for the benefit of all to experience the beautiful lands in the region.
Harvest Market: What aspect of land preservation is the most inspiring to you? And the most challenging?
TLC: TLC’s work is inspiring when you see a program or project make an impact on someone’s life whether in the moment or long-term. Helping a landowner permanently protect a property that has been in the family for four generations is inspiring. Knowing when those papers are signed, that land will remain open and undeveloped in perpetuity is impactful. We know our kids and grandkids will be able to travel these roads and look at the same vistas rather than houses is motivating. Helping others see that vision and understand the reality of conservation and how it permanently protects land is the challenging part of our jobs. We often have to help people understand they don’t have to cave to development pressure and that conservation can often give them the financial resources to both protect their land and help them maintain it.
Education programs often lead to moving moments as well. Simple ones where a kid exclaims enthusiastically how much fun they are having outside to more complex experiences when you see a dedicated Teen Turning Green intern return weekly through the heat of the summer to help manage invasive plants, blaze trails, and maintain our open spaces for public enjoyment. Knowing TLC’s work helps guide students with interests in the environment is rewarding and as we enter our third year of the Teens Turning Green program, knowing our past interns have gone on to a variety of science and environmental degree programs, keeps us going because we can see the impact of our work on our future.
Harvest Market: If you could grant one wish to our community, what would it be?
TLC: We have a lot of wishes! One wish would be that more people in the community realize the importance of open space and continue to support preservation. Be on the lookout for the soon to be released Return on Environment Study that highlights the economic, environmental, and health benefits of open space as updated for 2019. Open space also helps with climate change. As we know, last year we had tremendous amounts of rain. Use of pervious surfaces and riparian buffers slow down and filter extreme runoff before water returns to the streams and aquifers, mitigating possible flooding of areas close to lowlands. We wish everyone would reduce their use of pesticides, herbicides and plastics. We wish everyone would come out to our preserves, our educational programs and our Interpretive Nature Center as well as participate in our 12th annual Run for Conservation!
Harvest Market: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our customers and staff at Harvest Market?
TLC: Invest in our community and become a member of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County! Support via memberships helps TLC continue preserving the unique rural character of Southern Chester County. With your membership, it will be possible for us to acquire new acreage, uphold our property stewardship standards, further our research in conservation science, enhance our educational programs, and save habitat. Protecting the exceptional and fragile ecosystems, watersheds and beauty of Southern Chester County is our passion. All levels of Memberships (from individuals to canine to visionary) help drive our organization; become a member today!