In late summer of 2019, the Manager of Environmental Affairs at Knouse Foods Cooperative, Charles Bennett, convened a group of conservationists for a meeting. Representatives from The Adams County Office of Planning and Development, the Watershed Alliance of Adams County, Adams County Trout Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and the Land Conservancy of Adams County were there. He informed them that the Cooperative intended to sell some land in Butler Township. While the sale of property would not normally warrant the involvement of such organizations, this was a special case. Cool, clear waters of the Conewago Creek pass through the property for half a mile, and since its purchase of the property in 1986, Knouse has partnered with the Adams County chapter of Trout Unlimited to allow public use of the creek for catch-and-release fly fishing. Dean L. Carey, then President of Knouse Foods, signed an agreement with the PA Fish and Boat Commission in 1998 for the agency to access the stream, manage it for fishing purposes and allow public access. If Knouse sold the property on the open market, public access of the property would likely disappear.
On December 30th, 2021, after more than two years of strategizing and seeking grant funding by the group, 58 acres were purchased by the Land Conservancy of Adams County, which immediately conveyed the parcel to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. The majority of the funds for the acquisition – over $200,000 – came from the Bureau of Recreation and Conservation in the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources through a grant from the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission contributed $84,000 towards the purchase. Adams County Trout Unlimited raised $16,000 from its members and the members of the Northern Virginia Trout Unlimited chapter, and to that added $40,000 received from the Warehime Foundation based in Hanover. Two years into the project, when some other hoped-for grants were not awarded and fruition of the project seemed uncertain, the Adams County Conservation District stepped in to fill the remaining gap, contributing the final $75,000 needed to meet the purchase price through the Conservation District’s Act 13 Unconventional Gas Well Fund.
Thanks to this partnership, and to decades-long efforts by Adams County Trout Unlimited chapter, public catch-and-release fly fishing access is secure along this section of the Conewago. The Land Conservancy of Adams County commends Knouse Foods for its commitment to perpetuating this unique public resource, and its patience while the partners raised the required funds. The Adams County chapter of Trout Unlimited and the PA Fish and Boat Commission have now entered a lease agreement for the management of the property. ACTU will act as steward, maintaining fly-fishing access and developing other passive recreational opportunities within the wooded acreage.