New Garden Township acquires land for 106-acre public park in Chester County

New Garden Township has acquired 106-acres of land, once the site of the Loch Nairn Golf Club, for use as a passive-recreation park.

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Loch Nairn

Loch Nairn. (Courtesy of Kate Raman from Natural Lands)

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New Garden Township has acquired 106-acres of land, formerly the site of the Loch Nairn Golf Club, for use as a passive-recreation park complete with walking trails.

While the public park is technically already open for those who can walk there, its official opening is scheduled for 2024, once public parking is available and the property is renovated from its current state as an 18-hole golf course.

“Once the park is open for the public. They can enjoy it. I think they’ll have a really beautiful area for passive recreation, for walking, for taking your animals — whatever you want to do to enjoy nature. It’s a really special area,” Township Supervisor David Unger said.

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The township hired Natural Lands, the Media-based land conservancy organization, as a consultant to help negotiate the deal, acquire grant funding for the purchase, and ultimately work on a masterplan to restore the park and improve the surrounding environment.

The previous owner H.C. Smedley first built the golf-course back in 1979. The open land would have likely been cleared to make room for a 90-unit housing development had the township not swooped in and purchased the property.

In the summer of 2019, New Garden Township began the initial stages of negotiations with the Smedley family. Meanwhile, Natural Lands applied for several county and state grants in 2020 and 2021.

“We provided the funds and then we helped with the transaction with the township when then needed assistance for things like a walk through,” Kate Raman, a conservation project manager with Natural Lands. “This process was a little complicated because there was a subdivision that had to take place before the township could acquire the property. So there’s a little more due diligence than usual.”

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New Garden Township completed the transaction on Jan. 21. The Smedley family has retained ownership of The Farmhouse, a restaurant on the grounds. Now, a special township committee, Natural Lands, and the Stroud Water Research Center are working together on completing and implementing its master plan.

“We want to be able to reuse some of the infrastructure that’s there, including the cart path to facilitate public access on the property,” Raman said.

There’s a lot of water on site as the park includes a tributary to White Clay Creek. But because there is a large amount of turf grass on the golf course functioning as an impervious surface, the township plans to do some extensive restoration work to enhance the land and stormwater infiltration to make the area more environmentally friendly.

“The Nature Conservancy has a model to show the extent that a site contributes to resilience. And this, as a golf course, was one of the lowest I’ve seen — well, well below average resiliency. So we’re hoping to enhance the resilience of the site through the plan,” Raman said.

Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michell Kichline released a joint statement which said the county was pleased to help fund the project:

“The plans for Loch Nairn represent the very best in Chester County’s focus on land preservation: a multiuse trail, reforesting, and conversion of areas to meadow. This will be a place where residents and visitors to the area can enjoy a calming nature preserve that includes walking and cycling opportunities.”

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