The Land Conservancy looks back at 2014

Editor’s Note: We run this submission from The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County as a public service, but grant that it expresses opinions — which is why we’re running as a column, not as a straight news story or release. As always, we welcome comment and opinions.

TLC-Pic2014 is rapidly coming to a close and the members, board, staff, interns and volunteers of The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) are justifiably pleased to share some highlights from the past year.

An overview of TLC’s accomplishments in 2014 include: new conservation easements in three townships for open space, farmland and riparian buffer protection; land management of four local nature preserves; adding another trail segment to the Red Clay Greenway Trail; partnering with the state to train Pennsylvania Master Naturalists for the third consecutive year; expanding local outreach with added environmental education programing and events; conducting almost 100 programs and events for environmental education for adults and children; and a combined total of 3,221 participants in all their programs and events.

Gwen Lacy, Esq., Executive Director for TLC, stated: “Like so many nonprofits with a small staff and lean operating budget, we are continually caught-up in the day-to-day doing, and rarely have an opportunity to celebrate our accomplishments. So it’s good to pause and do a year-end review, and it’s especially gratifying to know all we achieved in spite of the numerous challenges to non-profits.”

But one accomplishment in particular stands out for TLC and for many local residents as well: saving the historic Chandler Mill Bridge (listed on the National Historic Register) from demolition. An opportunity that has arisen in the past almost four years since the bridge was closed has resulted in the option of the adaptive reuse of the historic bridge as part of a trail connector to the proposed forty-five acre Chandler Mill Bridge nature preserve with vital trail linkages to the Red Clay Greenway Trail.  This option is currently being pursued by the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors and is proposed and preferred by TLC and a local consortium of interested residents.

As a 501(c) 3 non-profit with a mission to ensure the perpetual preservation and stewardship of open space, natural resources, and historic sites in Southern Chester County, TLC also focuses on the sustainability of existing farmland throughout the area.

With popular trends in eating locally produced foods and supporting local businesses, as well as public support for sustainable ecosystems, development practices and renewable resources, TLC is perfectly positioned as a collaborative partner in a community-based approach to conservation and preservation.

“It is encouraging to work in collaboration with municipalities, local businesses, private landowners, and many publicly-supported nonprofit organizations,” says Lacy. “It helps solidify our commitment to enhance the quality of life, health and well-being of local people via local access to the land.”

Listing TLC collaborations creates a veritable “who’s who” of local organizations with impact in Southern Chester County and beyond: Longwood Gardens, Stroud Water Research Center, Kennett Trails Alliance, Friends of the New Garden Trail, Buck & Doe Trust, American Mushroom Institute (AMI), CCRES, The Garage Community & Youth Center, After the Bell, La Comunidad Hispana, local Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops, Moms of Preschoolers, Chester County Technical College High School, Tick Tock Early Learning Center, Chester County Historical Society, Historic Kennett Square, UAME Church, Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education, Delaware Nature Society, and Trail Creek Outfitters.

Though some prefer to remain anonymous, and there are too many to mention here, some of TLC’s most important partners are those who provide the financial support that enables them to carry out their mission. $1.62 million in funding has been received so far this year from major sources, with an estimated $200,000 still pending by year-end.

Governmental grants primarily fund land conservation easements, and in 2014, grants were received from  Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Chester County Preservation Partnership Program (PPP), and Kennett Township.

Another government grant came from Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help fund the Pennsylvania Master Naturalist Program. This is a training program that is part of a national initiative, with 38 states currently participating. TLC is one of a small group of sponsoring organizations that are conducting pilot programs in partnership with the state of Pennsylvania. Lecture classes are held at Stroud Water Research Center and field classes are onsite at various TLC Nature Preserves.

Lacy and her staff, along with the TLC board and members, are very grateful for every additional dollar in funding that helps them fulfill their mission for the benefit of local residents. A special Endowment Challenge is currently underway with Peter Kjellerup and Mandy Cabot, co-founders of Dansko, matching, and in some cases tripling, individual contributions made to TLC by December 31, 2014.

In concluding her year-end review, Lacy summarizes the value of TLC’s work: “We are a group of passionately dedicated people, focused on preserving the unique character, natural environments and cultural heritage of this special corner of the world. Besides its rich farmlands, watersheds and ecological significance, this small region has played an important part in state and national history, and has an enduring legacy with the Underground Railroad serving as an inspiring model for humanitarian causes everywhere. So we are very honored and excited to play a part in creating a sustainable future for this very local area we know and love as Southern Chester County.”

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