March 3, 2020

Decade-Long Effort to Conserve One of the Largest Blocks of Open Space in Mid-Atlantic Completed

CHESTER COUNTY, Pa. — Today, The Conservation Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Mt. Cuba Center, and Chester County completed an 11-year conservation effort along Pennsylvania’s southern border. Roughly 978 acres of undeveloped land was acquired into State ownership thanks to generous support from Mt. Cuba Center, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the Chester County Commissioners. This conservation milestone protects open space for a diverse array of wildlife and plant species and secures additional public recreation opportunities for the community such as biking, hiking, birdwatching and horseback riding.

Featuring rolling farmlands, open grasslands, wooded terrain and stream corridor, the 978-acre Strawbridge property was officially transferred from The Conservation Fund to DCNR for permanent protection and management. The preservation of this property secures a contiguous block of open recreation space of nearly 8,000 acres—one of the largest in the region. Today’s acquisition came 11 years after the protection of an adjacent 735-acre Strawbridge property, which was purchased by the Fund and transferred to DCNR in 2009. That property, now known as the Big Elk Creek section of the White Clay Creek Preserve, contains 2.1 miles of the Mason-Dixon line along the Pennsylvania/Maryland state border, joining the 5,300-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Maryland. Together, the three areas make up one of the largest central open spaces in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Large tracts of open space like this are extremely rare and valuable, especially in such a highly developed and populated area,” said Blaine Phillips, The Conservation Fund’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. “This project represents the culmination of a decade of work and steadfast commitment of all the partners including Mt. Cuba Center, Chester County Open Space Preservation and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The result is one of the largest blocks of open space in our region and an opportunity to maintain a bucolic landscape that is quickly vanishing.”

Photos of the Big Elk Creek section of the White Clay Creek Preserve. Photos taken by Jerry Monkman at EcoPhotography.

“As pressure from development, climate change, and other threats pose unprecedented risks for biodiversity, one of the most important things we can do to support flora and fauna is to conserve open space and the habitats it comprises,” said Ann Rose, Mt. Cuba Center’s President. “The Strawbridge property extends an important wildlife corridor and provides refuge for a wide array of rare and threatened species. Mt. Cuba Center celebrates this significant conservation achievement and the collaborative work of the partners who made it possible.”

Over 690 separate plant species have been identified on the Strawbridge properties—15 of which are considered endangered or rare in the state of Pennsylvania—including three varieties of orchids and a species of trillium. The land’s diverse terrain provides habitat for native wildlife species including deer, rabbits, and birds. Rare species such as the regal fritillary butterfly and the short-eared owl are also known to reside here.

Strawbridge supports roughly 3.5 miles of the Big Elk Creek, a tributary of the Elk River and Chesapeake Bay, which preserves critical land within the Chesapeake watershed. The land encompasses roughly 190 acres of floodplains, 600 acres of woodlands, 100 acres of native grass meadows, and 800 acres of farmland. Now under DCNR’s ownership, the Strawbridge properties will be managed within the White Clay Creek – Elk Creek Unit as part of the Pennsylvania state park system, and open for public recreation.

“The efforts over the last eleven years to conserve the Strawbridge property were extraordinary,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This department appreciates the efforts of our external partners to make projects like this happen. Through the technical assistance of The Conservation Fund, as well as financial support from Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin and Chester County’s Open Space program, this tremendous property is conserved for the enjoyment of generations yet to come.”

Funding support from Mt. Cuba Center in Hockessin, Delaware was critical in the protection of both Strawbridge properties—both in 2009 and 2020. Dedicated funding was also provided by the Chester County Commissioners and the State of Pennsylvania.

Recognizing the tremendous significance of this land preservation effort, Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said: “We applaud the tireless efforts of The Conservation Fund on completing this complex transaction and thank the Strawbridge family and the many other partners involved on this remarkable conservation success. Open space preservation is a big part of the cultural character of Chester County and the benefits of this exciting accomplishment go beyond the important preservation of wildlife and plant species, and the addition of public recreation opportunities. As noted in Chester County’s ‘Return on Environment Report,’ protection of open space such as this increases property values, keeps us fit and healthy, and cuts down of the cost of environmental services by filtering our water, cleaning our air, reducing flooding, slowing stormwater and storing carbon.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect more than eight million acres of land, including more than 144,000 acres of beloved natural lands across Pennsylvania at Gettysburg National Battlefield, Flight 93 National Memorial, Delaware River National Recreation Area, Michaux State Forest and across the Pennsylvania Wilds region.

About Mt. Cuba Center
With paths welcoming guests from the formal gardens of a du Pont mansion through stunning vistas, intimate woodlands and lush meadows, Mt. Cuba Center is a botanical garden that puts the beauty of native landscapes on display to inspire conservation. What began in the 1930s as the private estate of Mr. and Mrs. Lammot du Pont Copeland is now a public garden that centers on the beauty and value of native plants. In addition to cultivating the public garden’s formal and naturalistic landscapes, Mt. Cuba Center staff conduct research, connect guests to the natural world, and teach students about native plant horticulture. Gardens are open for general admission Wednesday to Sunday, April to November. Classes are offered year-round. More information at

About DCNR
Established on July 1, 1995, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is charged with:

  • Maintaining and protecting 121 state parks
  • Managing 2.2 million acres of state forest land
  • Providing information on the state’s ecological and geologic resources
  • Establishing community conservation partnerships with grants and technical assistance to benefit rivers, trails, greenways, local parks and recreation, regional heritage parks, open space, and natural areas.


DCNR mission is to conserve and sustain Pennsylvania’s natural resources for present and future generations’ use and enjoyment. Learn more:

About Chester County, Pennsylvania
Established by William Penn as one of Pennsylvania’s three original counties, Chester County is one of a select number of counties nationwide that has earned three Triple-A bond ratings from Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings. The County is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest, wealthiest and best-educated in Pennsylvania, and supports an open space preservation program that, over 30 years, has ensured nearly 30 percent of the County’s land is permanently preserved. These accolades and achievements, combined, serve as an economic driver for the County, and as a nationally-recognized area in which to live, work, raise a family and retire.

Val Keefer, The Conservation Fund, 703-908-5802,
Terry Brady, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, 717-705-2225,
Caroline Ralston, Mt. Cuba Center, 302-239-8883,
Becky Brain, Chester County Commissioners’ Office, 484-798-8710,