(L to R): Julie Graham (WCT), Drew Gilchrist (PA DCNR), Judy Thomas (Chester County Parks & Preservation), Jeanne Swope (WCT Volunteer), Ted Leisenring (Willistown Township Open Space Review Board), Erik Hetzel (WCT), Michelle Kichline (Chester County Commissioner), Bill Shoemaker (Willistown Township Supervisor), Josh Maxwell (Chester County Commissioner), Kate Etherington (WCT), Bonnie Van Alen (WCT), Mary Hundt (Willistown Township Parks & Recreation), Beth Hucker (WCT Board Chair), Brook Gardner (Willistown Township Open Space Review Board), Molly Perrin (Willistown Township Supervisor).  Photo provided by Willistown Conservation Trust.

Willistown, PA — Willistown Conservation Trust welcomed the Chester County Commissioners, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and Willistown Township to Kirkwood Preserve  to commemorate an additional 12 acres added to the 83-acre Nature Preserve owned and maintained by Willistown Conservation Trust.  


Partners in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony included Willistown Conservation Trust Executive Director Kate Etherington and Director of Land Protection Erik Hetzel; Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline and Josh Maxwell (County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz joined WCT before the ceremony); PA DCNR Grants Coordinator Drew Gilchrist; Willistown Township’s Parks & Recreation Director Mary Hundt, Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Shoemaker, Supervisor Molly Perrin, Open Space Review Board Chair Ted Leisenring and Open Space Review Board Member Brook Gardner; and Chester County Preservation Programs Coordinator Judy Thomas. 


This ceremony honored the partnering funders who were vital in the acquisition and permanent protection of this additional 12 acres of public open space. The project was financed and made possible by a grant from the PA DCNR through the Keystone Act of 1993 to WCT; grant funds provided by the Chester County Commissioners through the Chester County Landscapes 21st Century Fund; and the Willistown Township Open Space Fund. 


Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline note, “The beauty of Chester County’s open space program is found not only in thousands of acres preserved, but also in the partnerships that make it happen. We are admired by communities across the commonwealth and the nation, and this is because all preservation partners — be they the State, the County, our municipalities, and conservancies like Willistown Conservation Trust — always make smart, well-planned investments in open space.” 


“Kirkwood Preserve is a special place,” says WCT Executive Director Kate Etherington. “Nestled among privately conserved lands, its protection preserves an important greenway, scenic vistas, important habitat for grassland birds and other species, meadows abundant with pollinators, and a prime section of Crum Creek. Additionally, Kirkwood provides ample recreational activities for the community with miles of pedestrian and equestrian trails.” 


With the additional 12 acres comes a new trail within the Preserve — one that will provide access to many more miles of trails on adjacent conserved lands throughout the Willistown Countryside.  


Says PA DCNR Grants Coordinator Drew Gilchrist, “The DCNR is pleased to partner with Willistown Conservation Trust and other funding partners in the preservation of this important parcel. With its preservation, the land will continue to provide essential environmental services, wildlife habitat, connect existing preserved land and expand the local trail network for all to enjoy and appreciate.” 


Thanks to Willistown Township funding, WCT intends to install a stepping stone creek crossing along Crum Creek, which will connect the main portion of Kirkwood Preserve to this new addition. This creek crossing will also provide access to a portion of the existing Preserve that has not been accessible to the main area. WCT anticipates the creek crossing installation beginning in early fall of 2023, though walkers and hikers are currently permitted to cross the creek to access the Kirkwood Preserve addition. Proper footwear is advised.  


Says Bill Shoemaker, “The celebration of this addition to the Kirkwood Preserve marks another chapter in the longstanding partnership of Willistown Township and WCT. The expanded parking lot and the soon-to-be-added stepping stones across the creek make the Preserve even more available for people to enjoy. The advantages of preserving open space resources are so important to this community, and Willistown Township is proud to be a part of this today!” 


This open space is also part of a larger 16-acre conservation project across Grubbs Mill Road that will enable the preservation of an historic farmstead dating from the late 18th century that includes an iconic Chester County bank barn. Portions of the property that are not subject to the Kirkwood acquisition have been placed under conservation easement and restricted from any further development, allowing for the preservation of an historically significant landscape that embodies the rural character of the Willistown countryside. 

Photo provided by Willistown Conservation Trust.

Found 20 miles west of Philadelphia, Willistown Conservation Trust focuses on 28,000 acres within the watersheds of Ridley, Crum, and Darby Creeks of Chester and Delaware Counties. Since 1996, the Trust has helped to permanently conserve over 7,500 acres, including three nature preserves open to the public: Ashbridge Preserve, Kirkwood Preserve, and Rushton Woods Preserve, which is home to Rushton Conservation Center and Rushton Farm. The Trust offers six renowned programs for public engagement and research: the Bird Conservation, Community Farm, Education and Outreach, Land Protection, Stewardship, and Watershed Protection Programs.