Last week, the Lancaster County Conservancy acquired 104 acres of woodland in Hellam Township (York County) from Robert Kinsley. Funded by a unique public–private partnership, this property adds to the Conservancy’s Hellam Hills Nature Preserve of protected forests and riparian buffers along the Susquehanna River.

The Conservancy began working on protecting these beautiful and critical lands in 2011. The owners, Marietta Gravity Water Company, were marketing these 104 acres of interior forest for development of an approved 23-lot residential subdivision. In December 2016, the property was listed for public sale. The Conservancy needed to act quickly, but funding from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the Conservancy’s public partner, can take years to secure.

Running out of options, the Conservancy needed a local hero to save the day. That hero was Bob Kinsley. He agreed to negotiate terms of a sale and purchase the property from Marietta Gravity Water Company in early 2017 and hold it for the Conservancy until funding could be secured from DCNR in 2018.

“The Kinsley family has a long history of land preservation and conservation, and this project is just one example of our continued commitment,” said Robert Kinsley, chairman and CEO of Kinsley Construction. “We were happy to play a vital role in preserving this beautiful area of Hellam Township, York County and ensuring it is protected for recreational use for generations to come.”

Brookfield Renewable’s donation of 200 acres in Martic Township, Lancaster County provided the match to the Conservancy’s DCNR grant, and this project was successfully funded.

“Everybody wins when the business community and conservation organizations partner to protect land. Without Mr. Kinsley or his participation in this project, this critical wooded tract would’ve been developed and nature lost forever,” emphasized Phil Wenger, the president and CEO of the Conservancy.

In total, more than 300 acres will be opened to the public for year-round recreation, free of charge. In addition, the Conservancy plans to incorporate parking and an ADA trail on this new Hellam Hills property.

Both the Marietta Gravity Water Company property and the Brookfield Renewable land donation are within the Susquehanna Riverlands conservation landscape. This decades-long, public–private partnership works to provide recreation, heritage tourism, scenic enjoyment, and educational opportunities for the public. Those partners—DCNR, The Conservation Fund, Lancaster and York Counties, PPL, Talen Energy, Brookfield Renewable, National Park Service, Susquehanna Heritage, and the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York—have a long history of collaboration with local municipalities and state and federal resource-based agencies to protect natural lands, waterways, riparian buffers, and wildlife habitat for the public.

“DCNR is proud to be a partner in this invaluable acquisition that enriches both the Conservancy’s Hellam Hills Nature Preserve and the Susquehanna Riverlands, of which the preserve is key component,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Watershed protection, increased public access, recreational enhancement – it’s all there in this Conservancy investment for future generations.”

The Conservancy serves as the community lead for protection, enhancement, and economic growth initiatives within the Susquehanna Riverlands.

“The Lancaster County Conservancy is grateful to all the partners who collaborate on the Susquehanna Riverlands conservation landscape and are excited to include the Kinsley family in that group”, said Kate Gonick, director of land protection at the Conservancy. “We look forward to stewarding the land for public enjoyment, habitat and natural sustainability.”