Natural Lands announced the permanent protection of two properties in East Coventry Township, Chester County, totaling 39 acres. In addition to preserving the rural viewshed, conservation of these properties protects the water quality of Pigeon Creek and, by extension, the Delaware River Watershed that provides drinking water to 15 million people.

“Natural Lands has worked for nearly 70 years to preserve land in the greater Philadelphia region,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands, the region’s oldest and largest conservation non-profit. “Preserving undeveloped land is one of the best ways to protect water quality on which we all depend. The land acts like a giant sponge, soaking up flood waters and filtering pollutants that would otherwise wash into our streams.”

He added, “I’m thrilled to celebrate the successful protection of these two properties whose owners made the generous and impactful choice to preserve their land forever, for us all.”

In 2017, East Coventry Township partnered with Natural Lands to create a Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Plan. The Plan established a goal of protecting the township’s scenic, rural character through the preservation of at least 50 percent of unprotected, developable land as open space. Since that time, Natural Lands has helped the township toward that goal by placing conservation easements—permanently, legally binding protection—on five separate properties totaling approximately 165 acres.

The most recently conserved parcel is the 25-acre Kulp property, a small working farm on the western edge of the township. In addition to farm fields and woodlands, the farm includes nearly 3,000 feet of unnamed tributaries to Pigeon Creek, which is classified by the state as a “High Quality” stream.

Kulp property – Photo by Jack Stefferud

The property has been in Matthew Kulp’s family for several generations; the extended Kulp family were in support of its preservation. Said Mr. Kulp, “We all need to recognize we are all stewards, whether it be to our families, our communities, or the land we live on. We have to respect and honor the land in all it gives us: food, water, wild things, open air, big trees. We need to understand our place in the world is just temporary and we have to take care of all we have.”

Just a few weeks after the Kulp property was preserved, Natural Lands finalized another conservation easement in East Coventry Township about a mile to the east. The property is a 14-acre parcel comprised of pasture, crop fields, and woodlands. There are also three man-made ponds on the property and two tributaries of Pigeon Creek that total just over 1,000 feet. Water from Pigeon Creek feeds into the Schuylkill River, which flows all the way to Philadelphia where it joins the Delaware River.

14-acre parcel – Photo by Robyn Jeney

Preservation of both properties was achieved through the use of conservation easements, one of the best tools to achieve open space goals. A conservation easement is a legally binding, voluntary agreement that permanently limits a property’s use for all present and future owners of the land.

The Delaware River basin provides drinking water for 15 million people, including the communities of New York City, Trenton, Philadelphia, and Wilmington. One of the best ways to protect the quality of this water is to protect the undeveloped land—as well as the trees and other plants on that land, which filter rainwater and run off, slow floodwaters, and reduce erosion.

Separate trail easements held by East Coventry Township connect these two newly preserved properties to a larger 7.6-mile trail system.

“The East Coventry Board of Supervisors and Open Space Committee are committed to preserving as much of our beautiful township as possible,” said Board of Supervisors chairperson Ray Kolb. “We are very proud of our residents, our community, and our open space and trail system. East Coventry is a wonderful place to live, play, and work.”

Said Karen Nocella, East Coventry Township supervisor and Open Space Committee chairperson, “Mr. Harvey Kulp, the original owner and my neighbor, had visions of preserving his property from the time I met him in the 1970s. After East Coventry passed its open space referendum trying to save as much as our rural space became a priority.”

She added, “Partnering with Natural Lands and Jack Stefferud was like a dream come true, and I think Mr. Kulp would agree knowing that his beautiful family farm will be preserved forever.”

Chester County is among the fastest growing counties in Pennsylvania with a projected growth of nearly 30 percent over the next two decades, putting intense pressure on undeveloped land and the natural ecological services it provides.

Commenting on these two land preservation projects, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “The permanent protection of these two properties is the perfect example of how Chester County comes together to preserve land that benefits everyone. Very few communities across the state, and even the nation, have such willingness from so many partners—including residents—to ‘come to the table’ and protect our natural resources.”

Funding for preservation of these two properties was provided by Chester County Department of Parks and Preservation and East Coventry Township.