The Lancaster Conservancy (“the Conservancy”) has acquired a 155-acre tract of stream, forests, and farmland that surrounds the Conewago Recreation Trail in Mount Joy Township, Lancaster County. The property is within the federally designated Highlands Region, which covers the forested ridge that run from Maryland north to Connecticut between the Appalachian Mountain Range and the urban centers of the Mid Atlantic to the east. The designation seeks to encourage conservation within the region to protect drinking water supplies, vital natural habitat, and recreation opportunities – all factors which are present and now protected on this 155-acre property.
This exceptional tract preserves views of upland forests and farmlands from the Conewago Recreation Trail which begins near Elizabethtown at Route 230 and travels to the Lebanon County line. The property first came on the market 10 years ago, but more recently the owners acquired additional properties to facilitate commercial access and marketed the property for commercial development as a future warehouse site. Development of this land would have impacted several acres of wetlands and over a mile of the Conewago Creek, which flows through the property and ultimately drains into the Susquehanna River. Development would also make it challenging to proceed with a proposed stream restoration project that Londonderry and Mount Joy Townships have been jointly working on for several years. “The Conservancy Board was excited about this tract because of the trail, the property’s ecological value, and the presence of over a mile of the Conewago Creek,” said Conservancy President, Phil Wenger.
The County of Lancaster awarded a $150,000 grant to help fund this important acquisition. “We value the Conservancy’s work to protect land along the Conewago Recreation Trail and to protect our landscape that is disappearing,” said County Commissioner Chairman Josh Parsons. “It’s important for us to support recreation opportunities and the planned clean water initiatives.” The total cost of the property’s acquisition and permanent stewardship is $2.4 million. The Conservancy raises both private and public funds for these properties and is currently undertaking a fundraising campaign to pay off a loan from Fulton Bank that helped initially acquire the property.
This 155-acre tract is just downstream from the Conservancy’s Donegal Highlands and Bellaire Woods Nature Preserves and will become the Conservancy’s 50th nature preserve. The Lancaster Conservancy is an accredited land trust, founded in 1969, and manages over 8,200 acres for the public to hike and enjoy 365 days per year. The Conservancy’s efforts in Highlands Region, which runs through the northern stretch of the county, includes over 2,300 acres of land protected through easements or owned by the Conservancy as well as several hundred acres protected through the Conservancy’s joint projects with other land trusts and state agencies. “The Conservancy has been working with local and state government for over ten years to protect this property and we are thrilled to have a Board and leadership that made this acquisition successful,” said Kate Gonick, Senior VP of Land Protection and General Counsel.
“Warehouses, development, and population growth are putting pressure on our fragmented natural landscape,” said Wenger. “We are in a race against time to strategically set aside those natural places that are critical for habitat, clean water, and public recreation before we lose them forever.”