Natural Lands Trust makes key land purchase

Natural Lands Trust (NLT) announced a small but significant parcel of land that will be transferred to French Creek State Park.

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The 2.3-acre tract will link two sections of French Creek State Park, providing a key trail connector.

The acquisition, finalized late last month, of 2.3 acres of woodlands is a critical link needed to connect the soon-to-be-completed two-mile section of the Big Woods Trail running through French Creek State Park to the Thun Trail (pronounced “tune”) section of the Schuylkill River Trail, a NLT press release said.

“This key purchase proves that even two acres of forest can make a big difference,” Molly Morrison, Natural Lands Trust’s president, said in the release. “This land is an important link in the Schuylkill River Trail System, which has the potential to connect communities from Philadelphia through Pottsville.”

The 2.3-acre property lies within a region known as the Hopewell Big Woods – the largest block of contiguous forest between New York and Washington, D.C.– which has been a focus of conservation efforts by Natural Lands Trust and more than 50 private and public partners over the past decade.

The tract is also a part of the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape, an area at the intersection of the Pennsylvania Highlands and the Schuylkill River Watershed that has been designated by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) as a priority for conservation, recreational access, and compatible economic development. Seventy-one percent of Pennsylvania’s forests are privately owned, which puts them at risk for development, the release said.

“This property is the critical link needed for DCNR to connect French Creek, a very popular state park with almost a million visitors annually, to the Schuylkill River Trail,” Pennsylvania DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said in the release. “The trail link will expand outdoor recreation opportunities at the park and provide an alternate transportation route for visitor access.”

This land purchase marks the eighth that Natural Lands Trust has facilitated for French Creek State Park; to date, the organization has worked with DCNR to add 386 acres to the park. On June 30, 2015, Natural Lands Trust purchased and transferred a 54-acre parcel of land to the park, allowing officials to reroute a portion of the 140-mile Horseshoe Trail from land owned by the South Birdsboro Gun Club to land owned by the park, the release said.

Support for this conservation success was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation.

Natural Lands Trust is the region’s largest land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.

For more information about French Creek State Park, visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us.

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