The Lancaster Conservancy announced Thursday that it is in the process of acquiring a 90-acre tract in Elizabeth Township, Lancaster County. The wooded tract, sought by the Conservancy because of its critical location to Speedwell County Park, forested acreage, and the value of its recreational and natural resources, which includes a stream that flows into Speedwell Forge Lake, will cost in excess of $2 million for the Conservancy to acquire and undertake the initial conservation planning process.
The Conservancy was the winning bidder of the tract at an auction held on Friday, October 22 in Manheim. Farmers, neighbors, and developers were on hand for the auction as the Conservancy outbid several parties to acquire the wooded parcel for $19,000 an acre.
“It takes a strong Board willing to take on both the initial costs of acquisition as well as the long-term responsibility of stewardship that comes with permanently protecting and owning natural lands, to make projects like this even possible,” said Phil Wenger, President of the Conservancy. “At this point, our work has just begun. Now we must raise the funds necessary to acquire and then care for this tract forever. If we hadn’t bid, this property would have likely been lost to development as pressure for building lots increases.”
“This parcel is critical to protect and sustain water quality, aquatic resources, and recreational opportunities at Speedwell Forge Lake,” said Tim Schaeffer, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, who called the Conservancy 72 hours before the auction offering encouragement. “It also complements ongoing and future habitat and watershed restoration and conservation in the Hammer Creek Watershed that will benefit the creek, the lake, the Susquehanna River, and the Chesapeake Bay.”
The Lancaster Conservancy is an accredited land trust, founded in 1969, which manages over 7,500 acres and owns 47 nature preserves for the public to hike and enjoy 365 days per year. “The work the Conservancy does to protect our community’s natural lands is a mission that reaches across ideological divisions. Our supporters include hunters and fishermen who believe in conservation, but also environmentalists who are concerned about climate change, the water we drink and the air we breathe,” said Phil Wenger. “Unchecked development is putting pressure on our already fragmented natural landscape, particularly on wooded parcels of land. We are in a race against time to strategically set aside those natural places that are too critical for habitat, clean water, and public recreation to lose forever.”
The Conservancy is in the process of securing and raising the total funds needed for this project, which will account for both the costs of acquisition as well as the creation of a management plan. The plan will identify and outline the work needed to restore habitat and enhance biodiversity on the property, while also exploring opportunities for public recreation and community partnership.
“The Conservancy has been working to try to protect this property for over ten years and we are thrilled that we were successful at the auction,” said Kate Gonick, Senior VP of Land Protection and General Counsel.
To donate or learn more about Conservancy land protection efforts, hiking trails, educational programming, and volunteer opportunities, please visit lancasterconservancy.com.