Op/ed: Preserve Chester County land

Most of us living in and near West Chester have learned of the pending sale and development of the iconic land in Westtown Township called Crebilly Farm.  Born and raised in West Chester, I rode my horse on the property as a young girl.  I cannot imagine West Chester without Crebilly Farm and took for granted that it would always be there.  Crebilly Farm is part of the Brandywine Battlefield.  The threat of mass development of that sacred land woke me up.  What began for me as an awareness campaign to preserve our history and push for a better outcome has grown into advocating for open space preservation in my own township, West Bradford.

Chester County is one of the most desirable places to live in our nation.  People are drawn to this very special nook of Pennsylvania for its beautiful rolling hills, open fields, wildlife, charming country roads, magnificent trees, exceptional waterways, and the rich history held within all of it.  Mass development is the very destruction of what attracts people to live here.  Where will we be twenty years from now?

I was never a person who seemed to get it right the first time around. Growing up privileged in many ways, I came from an angry and unpredictable home.  I married young and thought nothing of leaving beautiful Chester County when I headed west with my new husband, scant cash, minimal possessions and no real plan.

On this journey, I was blessed with some incredible life experiences while exploring parts of our nation.  I saw the smooth, subtle hills and pastel colors of light over the Midwest plains, the snowcapped Rocky Mountains and other magnificent scenic vistas of the West, such as the Grand Canyon and Lake Tahoe.  I lived on the island of Maui and eventually settled in the quaint charm of Sausalito, California.

One day, my husband didn’t come home.  In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he left California with a new love interest, and I never saw him again.  In time, I made my way back to the comfort and familiarity of Chester County and started over.  With the love of a dog from the SPCA, I discovered a whole new appreciation for our county.

Most of my adult life, I rented my home and found great solace in the peaceful, pristine lands of our county parks.  If not for places like Marsh Creek, Paoli Battlefield, Valley Forge, French Creek, Stroud and Cheslen preserves, Hibernia and the Laurels, I doubt I would have survived my own depression during that time of rebuilding.  Of all the spectacular places I have had the pleasure of living, I cannot imagine living anywhere else than Chester County.

In recent years, I have settled in West Bradford Township, and life has taken me on a new journey that has reinforced my love for the county’s historic treasures, many of which are now imperiled.

Land preservation of our county begins in our backyards, in our own townships.  A township with open-space funding can leverage the county and state for additional funding.  The population of Chester County is expected to increase by 28.8% by 2040, and pressure from developers is increasing.  We need to be proactive in protecting our land and unspoiled nature that makes this area so valuable.

West Bradford Township is proposing an open-space referendum for a 0.25% Earned Income Tax increase.  For every $10,000 of household income, the annual Earned Income Tax would be $25.  Such a tax does not apply to those on a fixed income.  East Bradford, Newlin, East Brandywine, West Brandywine, Kennett, New Garden, London Grove and Honeybrook townships have all been proactive in passing an earned-income-tax referendum.  West Bradford and the rest of the townships in Chester County need to get on board.

We need to preserve our open spaces before it is too late.  We the residents are the ones with the power to elicit change and protect what can never be replaced.  We are the stewards of this land and we need to get it right.  Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.

Sincerely,

Mindy Rhodes

Member, West Bradford Land Preservation and Sustainability Committee

 

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