On February 19, Natural Lands announced that it has purchased and transferred a 57-acre property to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as an addition to Marsh Creek State Park. Located in Wallace Township, Chester County, the land was slated to be developed. Now as part of the state park, it will be open to the public for hiking, birdwatching, horseback riding, and other passive recreation uses. The forested property adjoins the 1,727-acre Marsh Creek State Park, used by more than 1,000,000 visitors every year.

The downturn in the housing market a decade ago put a hold on the developer’s plans to create a large-scale resort community with residences, hotel space, and a golf course. Natural Lands approached the landowner when foreclosure seemed likely and offered to purchase the property for appraised value. After several years of planning and gathering the needed public funding, Natural Lands purchased the property at the close of 2018.

“Seventy-one percent of Pennsylvania’s forests are privately owned, leaving them at risk for development,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Saving these 57 acres simply could not have happened without all of us—U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Chester County, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Wallace Township, and Natural Lands—working together. I’m certain it would have been developed; now it will be preserved and enjoyed by everyone.”

Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline, Kathi Cozzone, and Terence Farrell noted, “This is the year that we are planning to reach a goal of 30 percent preserved open space in Chester County. Projects like this that expand beautiful areas already enjoyed by residents and visitors illustrate the thoughtful, planned approach that we take to preserving land. For 30 years, Chester County has been following that plan, which is why our preservation efforts are smart; why they encourage partnerships with conservancies, municipalities, and other organizations; and why the County is recognized as a great place to live, work, retire, and visit.”

“Whenever we can add land to our state parks, it is great news. When we add to an increasingly popular park serving residents of southeastern Pennsylvania, it is truly great news!” said PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This almost 60-acre tract will help enrich the experiences of the thousands of visitors drawn to Marsh Creek each year. We salute Natural Lands for the untiring effort to make it happen.”

Support for this conservation success was provided by Highlands Act; US Forest Service—Highlands Conservation Act; Chester County—Preservation Partnership Program; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources—Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund; Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation; and Wallace Township.

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission contributed a five-acre portion of the protected, 57-acre parcel to account for a nearby parcel it acquired for a future six-lane widening project west of the Downingtown Interchange (#312). The property provided by the Turnpike sits at the northwest side of the state park adjacent to Chalfont Road. The planned Pennsylvania Turnpike improvement project, which is now in the final design stage, will result in a smoother, safer, and wider I-76 between mileposts 308 and 312 in Upper Uwchlan Township.