Ellen Ferretti, director of the Brandywine Conservancy, highlighted her organization and its partnership with Chester County during a Chester County Planning Commission board meeting March 13th.
The Brandywine Conservancy was founded in 1967 as the Tri-County Conservancy serving Chester and Delaware counties and New Castle County, Delaware. It is based in Chadds Ford, Delaware County.
“In 1969, our first conservation easements protected 3.5 miles of Brandywine Creek floodplain, including Potts Meadow,” said Ferretti, who was a member of the Landscapes3 Steering Committee. “In 1976, we became the Brandywine Conservancy.”
The conservancy focuses its efforts around three themes: protect, connect, and enjoy.
“The conservancy has been a catalyst for conservation since its inception,” she said. “Our larger, more complex conservation projects have been groundbreaking and elevated the profile of grand conservation efforts within the three-county area.”
Ferretti highlighted conservation easements and land preserves that her organization is affiliated with through its work over the years. In total, the conservancy has helped conserve almost 65,000 acres since its inception and holds 484 easements, she said. In the past year alone, the agency has assisted in the protection of 217 acres, conducted 901 stewardship property visits, implemented 68 Best Management Practices on agricultural lands, planted 4,077 trees, held 31 programs with more than 2,055 participants, had over 10,000 visitors at their preserves (The Laurels Preserve, the Miller Farm Preserve, Waterloo Mills Preserve, Penguin Court, and Birmingham Hill), and assisted almost 40 municipalities with sound, land-use planning.
Some of the big projects the organization is working on include the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, a strategic initiative of the William Penn Foundation that is the country’s largest watershed-level protection effort. The initiative is a focused on conserving and restoring the streams that provide drinking water to 15 million people in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. This project includes the Brandywine-Christina Watershed in Chester County, according to Ferretti.
The conservancy also has been working on the Brandywine Creek Greenway project, which is a “regional planning initiative of the Brandywine Conservancy in partnership with municipalities and non-profit organizations that are active in the Chester Valley region of Pennsylvania and Delaware,” states the conservancy’s website. The Concept Plan for the greenway was completed in May 2013 and established a vision for the Brandywine River that is embraced by 25 participating municipalities.
The Chester County Planning Commission is partnering with the conservancy for the Brandywine Water Trail project, which will be the first water trail in this part of Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to Ferretti. When complete, the trail “will be a 22-mile bi-state recreational water route that connects communities, improving access to the Brandywine for increased water recreational use,” states the conservancy’s website. A feasibility “study will examine the opportunities, constraints, and challenges presented by a water trail and will provide recommendations regarding access, safety, trail amenities, educational opportunities, environmental considerations, long-term stewardship of the Brandywine, and potential partnerships to promote and manage the Water Trail.”
In addition, the conservancy’s municipal assistance program has assisted with projects in Honey Brook Township, Honey Brook Borough, Westtown Township, the Oxford region, Upper Oxford Township, New Garden Township, and London Britain Township. The conservancy is also are involved with several community events. For the past 40 years, the conservancy has been the sole beneficiary of the Radnor Races. For the past three years, the organization has conducted the Bike the Brandywine event; this year it will take place on Sept. 28th. Learn more.
Ferretti thanked the county and Planning Commission for their partnership with her organization. In particular, she lauded the Vision Partnership Program, which is administered by the Planning Commission. The VPP provides financial and technical assistance to Chester County municipalities to assist their communities with comprehensive planning, ordinance updates, and other studies.
“The funding is critical,” she said of the VPP program, adding that it will help municipalities implement Landscapes3.
Planning Commission Executive Director Brian O’Leary thanked Ferretti for serving on the Landscapes3 Steering Committee. He praised the organization and called it a great partner and one of the leaders in the county. “They are a great advocate for good planning, smart growth, and preservation,” he said.
Planning Commission Board Chairman Kevin Kerr also praised the conservancy, especially all the guidance the organization provided to Upper Uwchlan Township when he was a township supervisor there. “The guidance you provided to the township was astronomical,” he said.