Conquering a Steep Conservation Challenge in Berks County
234-Acre Gibraltar Hill Protected Forever
February 4, 2014
Kirsten Werner, Director of Communications
610-353-5587, ext. 267
Media, Pa. – Driving north on Interstate 176 in Robeson Township, Berks County, Gibraltar Hill rests on the horizon like a sleeping giant. Just a short time ago, the fate of this local landmark was grim; an approved subdivision plan would have cleared the dense woodlands and forever altered the skyline. Now, thanks to Natural Lands Trust, Gibraltar Hill is protected forever and will become part of Pennsylvania’s State Forest system.
The 234-acre hill is situated within the Schuylkill Highlands, a region at the nexus of two landscapes that have been prioritized for protection: the Highlands and the Schuylkill River Watershed. Allegheny Creek—designated a “High Quality” stream by the PA Department of Environmental Protection—winds around the foot of this densely wooded mountain as it makes its way to the Schuylkill River.
“Every land protection success is a cause for celebration, but this one is particularly special,” said Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president. “Gibraltar Hill will stand proudly as a physical reminder—quite literally—of how important open space is to us all. We are grateful to the many funding partners who helped make this achievement possible.”
Natural Lands Trust purchased the property last week and will transfer it to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, whose mission includes the long-term protection of the Commonwealth’s forests.
“This will be the first forested property in Berks County managed by our William Penn Forest District to demonstrate best practices to local residents looking to wisely manage and conserve their woods,” PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Acting Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “This is a great example of a non-profit organization and state and federal governments working together to conserve a piece of land in an increasingly developed area.” Grant funds from DCNR’s Community Conservation Partnership Program helped support the purchase of the property.
The William Penn State Forest District currently consists of 901 acres in five separate tracts across southeastern PA, including the Goat Hill Serpentine Barrens in Chester County and Little Tinicum Island on the Delaware River.
Gibraltar Hill is located a short distance from Natural Lands Trust’s 168-acre Green Hills Preserve, which the organization purchased in 2012 and now manages as a publicly accessible nature preserve. Natural Lands Trust also holds and monitors perpetual conservation easements on nearly 100 acres of land in Berks County.
“Area constituents in Cumru and Robeson Townships are especially gratified to have such a prominent forested hillside in our Schuylkill Highlands region preserved in perpetuity,” said Representative Mark M. Gillen. “Gibraltar Hill forms a panoramic backdrop for hikers and bikers along the Thun Trail and straddles the Schuylkill River.”
“With the growing pressures of development in our region, opportunities to preserve our remaining undisturbed natural areas are becoming increasingly rare. That is why the preservation of the pristine Gibraltar Hill and surrounding area is especially significant,” said Senator Judith Schwank. “This project will ensure that this natural gem will be forever protected for the enjoyment of future generations. I commend Natural Lands Trust, DCNR, and all the project partners for making this preservation opportunity a reality.”
Support for this conservation success was provided by PA DCNR—Community Conservation Partnership Program, the US Forest Service—Highlands Conservation Act, Open Space Institute, the Schuylkill River Restoration Fund, and Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation.
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest 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 nearly 22,000 acres. Today, millions of people enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved.