159 Acres in Newlin Township Permanently Protected
Conservation easement surrounding Superfund site is likely the first of its kind in the country
November 5, 2014
Kirsten Werner, Director of Communications
610-353-5587, ext. 267
Media, Pa. – Natural Lands Trust announced recently the conservation of Laurel Hill, a 211-acre property in Newlin Township, Chester County.
With towering oaks, maples, and tuliptrees overhead—a riot of color with their autumn-tinted foliage—and the cold, clear waters of Briar Run beneath, Laurel Hill is a sylvan paradise. It is this beauty that prompted Laughton Company, LLC, owned by Cyndy and Barry Olliff, to purchase the property in 2007. “We didn’t want it to be developed,” said Cyndy. “We knew if we didn’t step up, the developers would.”
A few years later, Laughton decided to go a step further to protect the land and contacted Natural Lands Trust, a regional conservation organization that has protected more than 100,000 acres in its 61-year history. Last month, an agreement was finalized to place 159 acres under conservation easement with Natural Lands Trust. Under an easement, property remains in private ownership, but is protected from future development in perpetuity.
The easement area includes 94 acres of high-quality deciduous woodlands that are bisected by Briar Run, a tributary to West Branch Brandywine Creek and one of a handful of trout-breeding streams in southeastern Pennsylvania. It also protects the scenic views along Laurel Road; the property includes more than 2,000 feet of road frontage.
While every conservation easement is tailored to the specific property and the goals of its landowners, the Laurel Hill transaction included one rather unique challenge: the property is the site of the former Strasburg Landfill, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated as a “Superfund site” in 1989.
The conservation easement is believed to be the first of its kind in the country: the permanent protection of many acres of desirable, undeveloped real estate surrounding a federal Superfund site by private, non-government parties.
For six years, the landfill accepted municipal and industrial waste; it was closed in 1984. Between 1989 and 2001, the EPA capped and fenced-off the fill site and installed a collection and treatment system to mitigate contaminants leaching from the fill. Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, which maintains the 24-acre retired landfill, has determined that the fill no longer poses a measurable risk to the surrounding community. Though the conservation easement does not include the landfill, it virtually surrounds the remediated site.
“While at first glance, Laurel Hill might seem like an unlikely target for development, make no mistake about it: this property was at risk,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “Hundreds of subdivisions and shopping malls have been constructed on or adjacent to other Superfund sites across the country, including the infamous Love Canal. And the scenic and natural attributes of this land made it a priority for conservation.”
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s foremost land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves totaling more than 22,000 acres. Today, millions of residents enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.