The Mercury: “French Creek State Park to Gain Land Through Natural Lands Trust”
By Frank Otto,
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The Natural Lands Trust announced it is preserving more than 130 acres in Chester and Delaware counties, including adding a parcel of land to French Creek State Park.
According to a statement from the trust, 4.4 acres were purchased in Warwick in the area of St. Peters Road for transfer to French Creek.
“It just gives us access (to the park) without having to infringe upon private ownership,” said Eric Brown, the manager of French Creek, who said he’d heard an agreement of sale was in place.
During the forest fire last March, fire crews were forced to use private property to gain access to fire lines established to contain the blaze which threatened homes there.
Jack Stefferud, the regional director of the Natural Lands Trust, said he was
working with the property owner on obtaining the parcel long before the fire, but its vital nature in fire fighting efforts made its acquisition a “no-brainer.”
“Quite honestly, in general terms, we would never look at a four-acre parcel,” Stefferud said. “The fact that this was a great point of access (interested us).”
The parcel was actually brought to the attention of the Natural Lands Trust by locals who used the informal trail on the property to gain access to French Creek. Its owner, Lee Henderson, according to the trust’s statement, was looking to sell the property and people knew exactly what should be done with it, Stefferud said.
“Within hours of the sign going up on the parcel, the Natural Lands Trust got phone calls,” Stefferud said. “It’s one of those parcels people look at and say, ‘This is something that should be conserved.’ Obviously, I took the phone call and came up with the same conclusion as everybody else.’”
Stefferud called Henderson gracious for sticking with the Natural Lands Trust through the one-and-a-half year process it took to arrange the sale.
“Quite honestly, (he) waited longer than (he) would have liked, but (he) also recognized it would be a fantastic addition to French Creek State Park,” Stefferud said.
“I’m so happy that others will be able to enjoy this land,” Henderson said, according to the statement.
Organizations like the Natural Lands Trust have been instrumental to the growth of French Creek.
“Since I’ve come here in 2006 we’ve probably added to this park the (equivalent of the) size of small parks in some other areas of the state through connecting trails and adding areas,” Brown said.
Without the Natural Lands Trust, such growth might be beyond the means of the park system.
“We really don’t have the time or income to do this but they have a lot of people who are really enthusiastic and passionate about this,” Brown said.
The improvements and additions “really help the quality of life of people” who live near the parks who have the areas to enjoy.
In addition to the land acquired for French Creek, a “conservation easement” was acquired for 10 acres in West Pikeland through funding support of the township. That conservation area is part of the Yellow Springs Foundation and will be a part of the 113 acres they own.
The Natural Lands Trust secures easements like the one in West Pikeland to prevent future development.
Six decades old, the trust 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.”