Natural Lands announced the protection of 35 acres of land in West Brandywine Township, Chester County. The voluntary land protection agreement between the McCaffrey family and Natural Lands will permanently prevent development of the property, which is largely wooded and located adjacent to Chester County’s 900-acre Hibernia County Park. This agreement also includes provisions for a nearly 2,000-foot-long trail that will offer scenic views and connect to the park.
The McCaffrey property includes 22 acres of mature woodlands and 13 acres of working farmland, with rocky outcroppings dotted throughout the forest. The entirety of the property is now permanently protected under a conservation easement held by non-profit Natural Lands. A conservation easement is a voluntary but legally binding agreement between a landowner and a qualified conservation organization that permanently limits a property’s use. The agreement applies to all present and future owners of the land.
Landowner Tom McCaffrey is philosophical about his decision to preserve his property. “There are two basic forces competing in anyone’s life: one is a force for change, and the other is a force for conservation. The output of small farms supplies a variety and fill needs, all without long transportation systems. This may be even more important around population centers in the future. So, lets hedge our bet with a little conservation.”
McCaffrey added, “Perhaps the manner through which my land is being conserved—as a small, working farm with agriculture permitted—will begin a trend and promote these ideas. I am thankful for the assistance I received so I might preserve this small example.”
In addition to preserving the farm’s scenic and agriculturally productive land, the conservation easement protects the 17 acres of woodlands and wetlands. West Branch Brandywine Creek winds just to the west of the property. During severe storms, the woodlands—part of a FEMA-designated flood plain—absorb and hold rainwater, buffering the creek. These woodlands also filter out contaminants; the tree roots help water soak into the ground, recharging groundwater supplies.
“As our region experiences more climate-related natural disasters like damaging storms and extreme flooding, the importance of preserved open space like the McCaffrey farm becomes all the more clear,” said Natural Lands President Oliver Bass. “In fact, Chester County’s landmark study Return on Environment: The Economic Value of Protected Open Space demonstrates that our region saves nearly $400 million on stormwater costs thanks to the flood control and water pollution services that natural areas provide free of charge. I applaud Tom McCaffrey for choosing conservation, and West Brandywine Township and Chester County for supporting this choice with financial support.”
Hibernia Park’s 2.2-mile Rim Trail bisects the woodlands on the farm’s western side. A trail easement, established concurrently with the conservation easement, allows for future connection through the McCaffrey property to Hibernia Road.
West Brandywine Township provided economic assistance with this conservation project.
“West Brandywine Township is extremely excited about the opportunity granted by an agricultural preservation easement offered by the landowner,” said John Cassels, chairman of West Brandywine Township’s Board of Supervisors. “It is proof of the township’s on-going commitment to follow the overall vision and goals laid out in our 2020 comprehensive plan update. Our community clearly expressed the desire to preserve its character and agricultural heritage. The property is adjacent to Hibernia County Park and includes future trails as a means for community connectivity to open space and recreation areas. The community also benefits from natural resource protection and preserved wildlife habitat for future generations. It all seems to be exactly what the taxpayers requested.”
Additional funding came from Chester County’s Preservation Partnership Program.
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “We were especially pleased to support this farmland preservation because of its connection to one of our most popular County parks. Because of Tom McCaffrey’s appreciation of the value of conserved land, visitors to Hibernia Park who currently walk on the roadway to access it will now have a safer way of getting there. Protecting these 17 acres of woodland also provides the park with an additional permanent forested buffer and, in keeping with our Climate Action plan, supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the county.”