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Part one of the two-part plan to save the historic 312-acre Crebilly Farm in Chester County from development is complete.
Natural Lands, the Media-based land preservation non-profit, recently announced the finalization of four conservation easements on 102 acres of the property in Westtown Township.
The easements serve as indefinite and legal restrictions prohibiting any future development, meaning the subsequent owners of those four parcels of land must adhere to those rules.
“Those properties can continue to be farmed. They can continue to have horse farms and hay and that kind of thing on it. But they can’t be further subdivided and they are limited to one residential structure,” said Todd Sampsell, vice president of conservation at Natural Lands.
Natural Lands has been working alongside the township and the Robinson Family — the founders of ACME Markets and the owners of the property — to preserve the entirety of the farm.
“It’s one of the last and largest pieces of open ground left between West Chester and Wilmington,” said Jack Stefferud, senior director of land protection at Natural Lands.
Crebilly Farm was once the setting of the Battle of Brandywine during the Revolutionary War. The iconic site has captured the attention of nearly everyone in Chester County who has driven past the expansive tract of open land.
The effort to save Crebilly Farm landed on the ballot in November, where Westtown citizens voted in favor of a slight tax increase to provide the township with the revenue to preserve open space.
“Every step in the process of preserving Crebilly Farm brings us closer to the time when everyone who lives in Chester County or visits Chester County can enjoy the beauty of this historic pastoral space. Every element of the plan to keep Crebilly as it should be, has been well thought-out, and we thank Natural Lands, Westtown Township, and the Robinson family for working together to make it happen,” Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said in a joint statement.
The final piece of the project is Westtown Township’s purchase of 206 acres for use as a public, passive-use park. The initiative has gotten help from the county and the state in the form of grants.
Stefferud said Natural Lands is very fortunate to have received widespread support among community and government partners. Sampsell said it was time for the next step.
“We’ve been working to bring in all of the public funding that we can, and we’re now moving into essentially starting to work with private foundations and private donors to try to raise the remainder of the funding. And we have until about the end of next March or so to bring in the remainder of the funding to make the entire project move forward,” Sampsell said.
Beyond the benefits of open space and recreational activities, Sampsell said preserving the land will also mean saving the habitat of important local wildlife and maintaining a strong buffer against stormwater.
“We know that this property sits at the headwaters of some tributaries ultimately to the Brandywine Creek. Brandywine Creek ultimately provides drinking water to communities downstream. And by keeping the property undeveloped, it allows rain waters that hit those 300 plus acres to be absorbed and lessens flooding impacts on communities downstream,” Sampsell said.
Natural Lands is the Delaware Valley’s oldest and largest land conservation organization.
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