On October 24, Countryside Conservancy opened its newest property acquisition to the public, the 82-acre Gardner Spencer Preserve in Benton Township, Lackawanna County, with a “rugged ribbon cutting”: attendees walked a half mile up a trail to the gathering location (guided hikes are available). This is the Conservancy’s 13th preserve to date.
Grant funding from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ recreation and conservation grant program helped with the purchase of the land in 2017. Matching funds for the grant were provided by the Ross Family Foundation and more than 20 individual supporters of the Conservancy. Also integral to the acquisition was the strong commitment to conservation by the seller, Patricia Gardner, and her willingness to significantly discount the sales price.
So far, 2.6 miles of singletrack hiking and biking trails have been constructed on the preserve in partnership with the Lackawanna State Park Trail Crew and professional trail builder Dave King of DirtSculpt, based in Allentown. The trails are generally smoother and more accessible for beginner riders and less-mobile hikers than other trails in the Lackawanna State Park/ Countryside Conservancy Trail System. Funding for this unique trail-building project was provided by the Scranton Area Community Foundation, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council’s Pocono Forests & Waters Conservation Landscape, the Frieder Foundation, PNC Bank, and an anonymous donor. Seventy-three volunteers have collectively contributed over 400 hours of labor to help put the finishing touches on the trails.