Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Natural Lands Trust, Partners Receive More Than $8 Million In DCNR Grants

Natural Lands Trust Wednesday announced it has been awarded $5.7 million in grants from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Marcellus Legacy Fund administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority.
Additionally, Natural Lands Trust helped area communities raise $2.7 million for their own conservation efforts.
The grant monies will help to fund a dozen conservation projects, including preservation of open space, development of hiking trails, and restoration of wildlife habitat.
“We’re thrilled to be working on so many exciting conservation projects; we simply could not do our work without the funding support we receive from DCNR and others,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “And it’s a great honor to be able to help so many partnering organizations and municipalities find the finds they need to save land and improve their communities.”
“Pennsylvania’s parks and trails, natural areas, and many opportunities to be active outdoors define our communities and make them places where people want to live, work, and play,” said DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti. “We are proud to work with Natural Land Trust and local partners to help them meet the vision for conservation and recreation that they have for their communities and regions.”
Land Preservation
The recent grants will help to preserving critical open space in the region, including projects in Philadelphia and Delaware and Berks Counties.
— In Philadelphia, Natural Lands Trust secured more than $1 million to protect permanently 38 acres of Awbury Arboretum in Germantown. The Arboretum’s 55-acre property contains more than 200 species of trees as well as meadows, ponds, and woodlands. Awbury Arboretum is also the site of the historic Francis Cope House. A conservation easement—a legally-binding agreement—will ensure that the Arboretum, which is open daily to the public, will remain an oasis for people and wildlife forever.
"We are very excited to guarantee the permanent preservation of Awbury with this conservation easement,” said Chris van de Velde, general manager of Awbury Arboretum. “We are also extremely pleased that Natural Lands Trust will be our partner in the preservation of the arboretum, as their reputation ensures us of the high quality of the oversight they are providing."   
When the easement on Awbury Arboretum is complete, Natural Lands Trust will have preserved land in Philadelphia equivalent to both the campuses of St. Joseph’s University and the University of Pennsylvania combined—including 325 acres of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education in Roxborough, the largest privately-owned property in the city. The organization has also helped to acquire 15 acres of land along the Delaware River for development of a waterfront trail and park.
— In Delaware County, working in partnership with Rep. Nicholas Micozzie (R-Delaware), Natural Lands Trust received nearly $1.2 million for the purchase of a much-sought-after property along Springfield Road in Darby Township.
The 35-acre parcel, locally known as “Darby Heights,” is the site of Woodburne, a neoclassical mansion designed in 1906 by the architecture firm of Horace Trumbauer for the son of Col. Thomas Scott, a former assistant secretary of war under Abraham Lincoln and president of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The mansion was last used by the current owners, the Sisters of the Divine Redeemer, as a nursing facility from 1958 to 2005.
The property has been on the market since that time and was slated for commercial development after its re-zoning in 2010. Local opposition to commercial development was strong and officials have been exploring conservation options.
This gem of a property, which Natural Lands Trust will turn over to Delaware County after purchase, will serve as the southern trailhead of the planned “Darby Creek Greenway,” a series of contiguous parcels that span three miles of Darby Creek. In the future, the parkland may also include a playfield and picnic facilities, and will provide better access to the west side of the adjacent Bartram Park.
— In Berks County, Natural Lands Trust obtained a $834,500 grant to purchase 234 acres along Ridgeway Road in Cumru and Robeson Townships to preserve forestland, protect wildlife habitat, and create opportunities for public recreation.
Once Natural Lands Trust purchases the land, it will be transferred to the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Forestry as an addition to the William Penn State Forest. The property includes dense woodlands that help protect the water quality of Allegheny Creek, which flows through the property. Once at risk for residential development, the property will now be made accessible to the public for hiking, fishing, and nature study.
Trail And Planning
In addition to preserving critical open space in the region, the recent grants will help Natural Lands Trust improve two of the organization’s 42 nature preserves and to begin construction of a new trail in one of the region’s most important natural landscapes.
— DCNR awarded a $20,000 grant through its Community Conservation Partnerships Program towards the development of a plan for both habitat restoration and public amenities at Natural Lands Trust’s Green Hills Preserve, located in Berks County. Natural Lands Trust purchased the property—which had been slated for development—in 2012, establishing the regional group’s first preserve in the county. The plan will guide management and restoration of wildlife habitat at the preserve and the installation of amenities such as parking and trails so that it can be more easily accessed by visitors.
— Natural Lands Trust received a Marcellus Legacy Fund grant of approximately $50,000 for improvements to the organization’s Sadsbury Woods Preserve, located in Sadsbury and West Caln Townships, Chester County.
The 508 acres that make up Sadsbury Woods include one of the largest remaining, unfragmented woodlands in the county. The preserve is an important habitat for birds that rely on dense woodlands for nesting. Natural Lands Trust will use the funds—and a matching grant from the Chester County Preservation Partnership Program—to construct a new 10-car parking area off Old Wilmington Pike, a handicap-accessible trail, and a stream crossing to enhance and extend the current trails at the preserve. When completed, the improvements will make the preserve more visible and accessible to residents and nature enthusiasts from around the region.
— As the coordinator of the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape, Natural Lands Trust received a grant of $213,000 from DCNR to administer and fund a small grant program, advance regional and municipal greenway and trail initiatives, and coordinate outreach activities in the landscape.
The Schuylkill Highlands encompasses most of the Schuylkill River Watershed and the southeastern-most section of the Pennsylvania Highlands. This diverse landscape contains splendid vistas, quiet woodlands, pristine headwaters, rolling farmlands, and a deep cultural history. The Schuylkill Highlands Mini-Grant Program is open to municipalities, non-profits, watershed associations, and friends groups with a tax exempt 501(c)(3) status.
Awardees receive reimbursement for work within the defined Schuylkill Highlands region that supports the goals and vision of the Schuylkill Highlands, and in particular the priorities of natural resource-based conservation and nature-based tourism.
— Natural Lands Trust also received a $193,700 grant for the planning and construction of a portion of a hiking and biking trail that will eventually connect the Schuylkill River Trail with the Boars Back Trail through French Creek State Park. The grant supports work on a two-mile segment from the Schuylkill River Trail to Crusher Road in Union Township, Berks County.
Grants obtained for municipal partners:
In addition to raising funds for its own projects, Natural Lands Trust helped six municipalities in three counties to secure grants totaling $2,701,600. The grants will fund open space land preservation in North Coventry and West Pikeland Townships in Chester County, Radnor Township in Delaware County, and Upper Pottsgrove Township in Montgomery County.
Additionally, grant monies awarded will make possible a stewardship plan for the 75-acre Rogers Conservation Preserve in Upper Salford and Marlborough Townships, Montgomery County.
For more information, visit the Natural Lands Trust website.

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