On March 23, 2020, Natural Lands announced that it has purchased an 82-acre wooded property adjacent to its Crow’s Nest Preserve in Warwick Township, Chester County. The addition brings the preserve’s size to 454 acres and provides a scenic buffer for a section of the Horse-shoe Trail, which traverses the property.
The recently acquired parcel was known as the Warwick Woods Campground. The former owners contacted Natural Lands when they decided it was time to sell the property, hoping it could be preserved as open space. Natural Lands acquired funding for the purchase through grants from Chester County, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Warwick Township, and the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation.
The campground had more than 200 structures, including an office, in-ground swimming pool, storage buildings, clubhouse, sewer facilities, and a pavilion. In addition, an access drive used by the neighboring natural stone quarrier Polycor ran through the property with no formal, recorded right-of-way easement. Natural Lands and Polycor agreed to a ”land swap”: the quarry acquired 15 acres that included the access drive and, in exchange, Natural Lands took ownership of 15 wooded acres in another corner of the property. Additionally, Polycor very generously removed all the man-made structures.
“By working with natural resources, we understand the importance of preserving the environment,” said Eric Mayer, director of operations for Polycor Quarries. “At Polycor, we’re looking to minimize our environmental impact, and we feel that our collaboration with an organization like Natural Lands is in the best interest of the Warwick Township population in Chester County.”
The Warwick Woods property offers scenic views—part of Chester County’s charm—along Trythall Road and also from the Horse-shoe Trail that runs along the property for about 3,600 feet. The Horse-shoe Trail is an 84-year-old, 140-mile-long hiking trail that connects Valley Forge National Historical Park to the Appalachian Trail northeast of Harrisburg and is designated as a National Recreation Trail. National Recreation Trails are designated by the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture “to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance.”
“Adding these 82 acres to our Crow’s Nest Preserve means they will be available to the public, free of charge, to explore and enjoy,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Contrary to the old adage ‘let nature take its course,’ natural areas need help to become—and remain—places where people, plants, and wildlife can thrive. We will care for this land using the skills and knowledge our stewardship team has gleaned over many decades.”
Crow’s Nest Preserve and the 82-acre addition are part of the Hopewell Big Woods, a vast, unbroken forest that offers critical habitat for a number of species, including migratory songbirds. The property provides a wooded buffer to Mine Run, which is a first-order tributary to the “Exceptional Value” French Creek waterway. The trees shade the water and help to filter out sediment and other pollutants, keeping the stream clear, cold, and clean.
“This department if very proud to be a part of this critical land acquisition that saw so many work so hard to achieve so much,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “When we look at this acreage, we see vital public access to a tract that enhances Horse-Shoe Trail travel and provides invaluable watershed and habitat protection.”
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “We appreciate the dedicated work of Natural Lands to preserve the character and landscapes of Chester County, and we are pleased to have partnered with the organization to add Warwick Woods to the publicly accessible Crow’s Nest Preserve. This project also supports the expansion of Hopewell Big Woods, one of the most important nature areas in the region as the last large, unbroken forest in southeastern Pennsylvania.”