Preserving Chester County’s open space, farmland, and natural features is an essential component to protecting our quality of life, economy, and future. After all – Chester County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state!
Back in the 1980s, Chester County’s protected open space accounted for less than 20,000 acres of land. Today, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the County Commissioners and many local residents and land preservation groups, nearly 30% (or almost 150,000 acres) of the county’s overall land is permanently protected. This is a huge accomplishment for Chester County, and supports the preserve goal found within Landscapes3.
Partner organizations such as Natural Lands, the Brandywine Conservancy, and other land preservation groups work with the county’s Open Space Program to track and report the areas of total protected land each year. In 2019, it was reported that there were 142,233 acres of land protected throughout the county, which is 0.5% more than the previous year’s total of 139,827 acres.
Three major projects that were completed in 2019 include an expansion to the Hibernia Park property in Coatesville, preserving parts of the Strawbridge property in New London Township, and the Bryn Coed property in West Vincent Township (which was an important goal for both Natural Lands, as well as residents of northern Chester County).
“From the first conservation easement in Pennsylvania to marquee nature preserves like ChesLen and Bryn Coed, Natural Lands has been committed to preserving the iconic landscapes of Chester County and beyond for nearly 70 years. Our successes – and those of our land trust colleagues – are a tribute to the conservation ethic of the county’s landowners and more than thirty years of steadfast support from the County Commissioners,” said the President of Natural Lands, Oliver Bass.
The county also measures preservation efforts through open space connectivity. By monitoring the total conservation corridors, the county is able to track the total amount of protected open space within those conservation corridors. In 2019, there were 22,955 acres of land within conservation corridors, and the protected open space in conservation corridors went up by 0.4% from 2018 to 2019.
The county also tracks the total protected farmland, which includes farmland that is eligible for an agricultural conservation easement and has been protected from future development. In 2019, the protected viable farmland made up 62.9% of all the farmland that was eligible for easement.
These accomplishments were highlighted through a number of events and celebrations in 2019. The Open Space Summit, held in May 2019 at the Natural Lands ChesLen Preserve in Coatesville, celebrated 30 years of open space protection in Chester County with more than 300 attendees including elected officials, residents, and other interested individuals.
The Return on Environment report, which was released at the Open Space Summit, presented the economic value of open space in Chester County in regards to impacts, environmental benefits, recreation and health, economic activity, and community cost savings.
Some findings in the report include a savings to the county of $236 million in stormwater management (plus an additional $134 million in annual maintenance costs), $1.65 billion added to the housing stock due to proximity of open space (the average home value goes up $11,000 when located within ½ mile of protected open space), and $124 million saved in annual recreation benefits for residents – among others.
The 2019 report was based on a similar study that was completed by the Green Space Alliance and Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission back in 2011. See more about the report here.
To learn more about how we preserve Chester County, as well as the other five goals found within Landscapes3, check out the 2019 Metrics Report.
And stay tuned for next month’s story – Measuring Up: How we Protect Chester County!