Photo by Brandon Tennis; provided by Lancaster Conservancy.

Lancaster Conservancy announced that Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is ready to welcome the public with two recently completed looping trails and a parking area while stewardship efforts continue. The Conservancy acquired the over 200-acre nature preserve from the Boy Scouts of America in 2019. Since then, the nonprofit land trust’s stewardship team and volunteers have worked to remove invasive species from the preserve and prepare trails for visitors. Restoration of Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve has been a priority for the Conservancy as determined by a study and master plan for the greater Hellam Hills Conservation Area, an area that includes this preserve.

This year, Lancaster Conservancy implemented the first-ever prescribed burn on a Conservancy preserve at Wizard Ranch to further manage invasive plants growing there. “With the recent success of the prescribed burn, we are now ready to provide the first iteration of access and trails, which includes two loops of a planned 5-mile trail system. These trails will allow the public to enter, traverse, and experience the significant management changes at Wizard Ranch that have taken it from a heavily compromised ecosystem to now a nature preserve well on its way to restored habitat and recreational trails through robust investments of time, materials, and expertise by our staff, contractors, and volunteers,” said Brandon Tennis, Senior Vice President of Stewardship at the Lancaster Conservancy.

Photo by Greg Smolin; provided by Lancaster Conservancy.

More trails and amenities to assist in community education and engagement efforts are being developed at Wizard Ranch, and restoration efforts, including intensive work to restore the preserve’s wetlands, will be ongoing.

Hellam Hills Conservation Area

Wizard Ranch Nature Preserve is part of the Hellam Hills Conservation Area, which runs from north of Wrightsville to the Codorus Creek and is the largest contiguous forest in the triangle between the cities of York, Lancaster, and Harrisburg. The conservation area currently includes the Conservancy’s Hellam Hills and Wizard Ranch nature preserves, as well the new Susquehanna Riverlands State Park that the Conservancy helped protect in 2022 – a total of over 2,000 acres of contiguous forests.

Active habitat restoration, visitor amenity construction, trail rerouting, and development is underway at Wizard Ranch following the recommendations of the Hellam Hills Conservation Area Master Plan. Visitors are reminded to abide by any posted signs limiting visitor access on the preserve for their own safety and to ensure the ecological success of the multiple restoration projects happening at Wizard Ranch.