Natural Lands Trust Transfers 54 Acres For French Creek State Park
Purchased on June 30, 2015, the Franklin L. Smith property will allow the park to reroute a portion of the 140-mile Horseshoe Trail from its current location, which leads visitors through land owned by the South Birdsboro Gun Club.
The State Park also has plans to install a parking lot on the new parcel to improve park and trail access.
The Franklin L. Smith property lies within the core of the Hopewell Big Woods—the largest block of contiguous forest between New York and Washington, D.C.—which has been a focus of conservation efforts by Natural Lands Trust and more than 50 private and public partners over the past decade.
It also lies within the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape, an area at the intersection of the PA Highlands and the Schuylkill River Watershed that has been designated by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as a priority for conservation, recreational access, and compatible economic development.
Mr. Smith purchased the property in 1957.
“Throughout those 58 years we were privileged to live in harmony with the land, flora, and fauna,” said Steve Condict, son in-law to Franklin L. Smith. “This is a great and well-deserved addition to the park and Hopewell Big Woods. It is a legacy that both my father and my wife’s father would heartily approve of.”
Seventy-one percent of Pennsylvania’s forests are privately owned, as was the case with the Franklin L. Smith property, putting them at risk for development. The dense woodlands are home to Scarlet Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, box turtles, mature oak trees, lady’s slipper orchids, mountain laurel, and wild azalea.
The purchase is the latest addition that Natural Lands Trust has helped to make to French Creek State Park. To date, the organization has worked with DCNR to add 384 acres to the park.
“Land preservation successes like this one are only possible with the support of our many partners, and families who choose conservation,” said Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president. “Our lives and our local environment would be substantially diminished had families like the Condicts not made these selfless choices.”
“This is an excellent example of partnerships in action that will benefit the public by expanding a very popular and heavily visited state park,” DCNR secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We plan to incorporate this valuable tract into the park’s existing woodland where it will serve as a buffer against development, help with open space protection, and connect residents and visitors to the outdoors.”
Support for this conservation success was provided by the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund; Open Space Institute – Highlands Bayshore Fund; Department of Community and Economic Development – Commonwealth Financing Authority; Department of Conservation and Natural Resources – Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Bureau of State Parks; Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation; and an anonymous gift in memory of Abbot F. Low.
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