Natural Lands announced on October 26, 2020 the permanent protection of nearly 10 acres of land along the fast-developing Route 202 corridor in Westtown Township, Chester County. Owned by the Church of the Loving Shepherd, the property was once the site of the 1777 Battle of Brandywine. Now preserved by a conservation easement held by Natural Lands, the land will never be developed.
The easement area includes open meadow and lawn, about three acres of forest, a pond and its tributary stream, and a large community garden. The property is adjacent to the Osborne Hill Farm, which was placed under conservation easement in 2018 and includes the promontory where British General William Howe surveyed the Battle of Brandywine during the Revolutionary War.
The land was approved for a nine-lot subdivision, but ultimately the Church of the Loving Shepherd chose a conservation option instead. Natural Lands was able to secure grant funding from several sources to purchase the easement from the Church.
“The members of the Church of the Loving Shepherd recognize that their property has important value to the community,” said Chris Ross, president of the Church of the Loving Shepherd. “The pond and open field provide peaceful passive recreation and a community vegetable garden. The property is also a critical historical resource, providing safe public access to Osborne Hill, where General Howe directed the final British assault during the Battle of Brandywine. Therefore, the members of the Church feel it is very important that this section of our property be protected from development and other uses that would degrade its value to the public.”
“We are so fortunate that the Church of the Loving Shepherd saw the historical and ecological importance of this property and ensured its permanent protection,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Because of robust and essential funding programs from state, county, and private sources, many times a conservation option is financially equal to selling to a developer. The outcome—for those of us who cherish our region’s beauty and rich history—is certainly not equal!”
Funding for this project was provided by Chester County’s Preservation Partnerships Program, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania – Department of Community and Economic Development’s Keystone Communities Program, and Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation.
In a joint statement, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “Preservation of this property—one that yields both environmental and historical benefits—is a perfect example of the great importance we all place on open space. It also reinforces the true value of the investment in preserving land that the County has been making over 30 years, and we thank all partners in this project for their contributions.”