(5/12) Did you hear that? That collective shout of joy? That was the reaction of
local and state conservation groups when they learned that The Conservation Fund, a national environmental nonprofit, had agreed to provide temporary financing to purchase the Glatfelter Pulp Wood
Company's Tree Farm #1 on Mt. Hope Road in Hamiltonban Township.
Why should you care? At approximately 2,500 acres, Tree Farm #1 is the largest private landholding in Adams County. So when it went on the market, you can bet developers up
and down the Eastern seaboard took notice. After all, current zoning laws allow for some 500 homes on the site. Five hundred homes that would far outstrip Hamiltonban's utility infrastructure. Five
hundred homes that would dramatically alter our groundwater profile.
But this remarkable piece of property also caught the eye of conservation groups. After all, the land forms much of the headwaters of our municipal water supply - which means
that the water coming out of your tap may well have fallen to the ground within the borders of Tree Farm #1.
Like to fish? Tree Farm #1 borders Middle Creek, one of the few high-quality stocked trout streams in Pennsylvania - and one of the few remaining habitats for Pennsylvania's
native brook trout.
Maybe you're more of a hiker. Or a hunter or mountain biker. The property boasts one of southern Pennsylvania's finest remaining wild forests, dotted with ponds and traced by
a network of woodland trails and meandering creeks - a paradise for an abundance of game and wildlife.
Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve is especially concerned with the future of this natural gem. Since the Tree Farm #1 adjoins Strawberry Hill's 609-acre nature preserve, any
development there would dramatically impact the wildlife that lives within its borders. But safeguarding the property as a state-protected forest would help Strawberry Hill's educational programming
- and natural resources - continue to thrive.
To help preserve this land, Strawberry Hill has joined a coalition including the Land Conservancy of Adams County, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, federal
partners, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, regional boroughs and townships, Adams County and local citizens to raise permanent funding by the end of 2008.
The Conservation Fund secured "bridge" financing for the $12.5 million purchase, and has agreed to hold the property until we can gather sufficient funding to repay the loan
and transfer the land to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, after which, the property will become part of the adjacent Michaux State Forest and will be yours to explore!
The bottom line? We're not out of the woods yet, but we've been given a unique opportunity to raise the funding to purchase the Tree Farm #1 property outright. We're hopeful
that the community and our partners will be able to save this beautiful and remarkable parcel of land.
For information and updates on this project, please call The Nature Conservancy at (717) 232-6001 or the Land Conservancy of Adams County at (717) 334-2828.
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