A new 193-acre conservation area is now open to the public in Erie County, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy announced on October 16. The South Branch French Creek Conservation Area in Union Township offers 1.5 miles of frontage along the South Branch of French Creek and provides access to a stocked trout stream for fishing and outdoor recreation.

One of the Conservancy’s goals with the purchase of this property is to maintain a forested, riparian buffer along French Creek. French Creek is known as the most biologically diverse stream of its size in Pennsylvania or any state in the northeastern United States, making its protection all the more important. Forested buffers along creeks and streams help to regulate water temperature, improve aquatic habitat and overall water quality.

In addition to important creek frontage, the South Branch French Creek Conservation Area features a diverse mix of habitats including forest, creek frontage, wetlands, vernal pools and former agricultural fields. The extensive forest features hard maple, soft maple, beech, cherry and large, old-growth hemlocks.

Located just 2.5 miles from Union City, the property will be open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird and wildlife watching and nature study. The Conservancy plans to install signage and more convenient parking in the future.

“French Creek is a spectacular place renowned for its biodiversity. That’s why it continues to be of great conservation importance to the Conservancy. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to protect this property and open it to the public,” said Tom Saunders, president and CEO of the Conservancy.

The Conservancy has protected more than 5,000 acres within the 1,250-square-mile French Creek watershed, starting with the Wattsburg Fen Natural Area, in 1969.

The South Branch French Creek Conservation Area was acquired with funding from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, as well as a family’s gift in memory of their son and brother, Brad Barnes. Barnes, who lived in the area, was dedicated to conservation and to protecting endangered plants and animals. His family has conserved several ecologically significant WPC-protected properties in French Creek in his memory. Funding was also provided through the estate of Helen B. Katz.

Enjoy a virtual walk along French Creek in this short video taken at the preserve.

Download a map of the preserve here.