Land Matters Fall 2021 | French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust

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WINTER 2021 | 2022

Trails to Tomorrow INSIDE

• A New Model of Conservation • Taking a Stand for the Land

Our Mission is to preserve, steward and connect people to the land in northern Chester County. BOARD OF DIRECTORS Penny M. Hunt PRESIDENT

Jennifer Trachtman


David E. Resnik TREASURER

Shaun Mannix


Ellen Scott


Nancy Bartley Therese Bentley Robert R. Berry Donna L. Brennan Ann Dyer, RN James R. Fisher L. Stockton Illoway Gwen Kelly Klein Cary F. Leptuck James Moore Edie Shean-Hammond Ashton Simmons Robert C. F. Willson, Esq.


Contents 4 Preserve Updates

Pamela Brown

Stand for



Kersten Appler


18 Stand for

32 Habitat

20 Connecting

34 Partner

22 French & Pickering

35 Annual Auction Party:

25 New Board

36 French Creek Iron Tour

the Land

People to Nature



Karena DiLeo



New Members!

30 Volunteer and


Bill Gladden

29 Welcome

12 Conservation


A New Model of Conservation


New Staff Spotlights Spotlight Profiles Adapting to the Times

a Success


FRENCH & PICKERING CREEKS CONSERVATION TRUST 511 Kimberton Road Phoenixville, PA 19460 610.933.7577 EMAIL






WINTER 2021 | 2022

Trails to Tomorrow INSIDE

• A New Mode l of Conservat • Taking a ion Stand for the Land


Indeed Land Matters


Bill Gladden, Executive Director

“ Whether it is the ability to get out and exercise on French & Pickering’s expanding trail network, join others in a physically-distanced bird walk, soak in the history of the Warwick Furnace ruins, or leave your worries behind while sitting on one of the overlook benches, Land Matters now more than ever.”

ising up between the rocks as it trickles downhill, the cool clear groundwater slowly flows over the hillside and weaves around boulders as it gently makes its way to the creek. The sunlight peeks through the leaves of the trees that keep the banks firm, the water cool and provide not only fresh air and vital shade, but also nutrients upon which the fish and various critters in the waterways depend. In these recent challenging times, I am reminded of the relevance of this publication’s title and the hallmark of our work: Land Matters. Since March of 2020, the relevance of those two words, Land Matters, has increased exponentially. The benefits nature provides to our physical health and mental wellbeing have come to the forefront. Whether it is the ability to get out and exercise on French & Pickering’s expanding trail network, join others in a physically-distanced bird walk, soak in the history of the Warwick Furnace ruins, or leave your worries behind while sitting on one of the overlook benches, Land Matters now more than ever. We are blessed with a community of residents who live here for a variety of reasons with a common connection to the farms, fields and forests of northern Chester County. The natural areas French & Pickering owns, manages, and makes available to the public as well as the lands we have transferred for park uses and also the easements we hold and protect in perpetuity would not be what they are today without you. But there are many opportunities and challenges ahead. To provide the financial foundation to fulfill our mission to protect these places forever – we have launched a critical capital campaign “Stand For The Land.” To date we have raised over $1.2 million on our way to our goal to raise $6 million over six years for our 60th “birthday” in 2027. We are passionately committed to fulfilling our preservation pledge of perpetuity and we know you are too. With over 13,000 acres permanently preserved since French & Pickering began in 1967, we are counting on your support to build on our success to date and fulfill our collective vision of permanent preservation throughout northern Chester County that will withstand the test of time.

Bill Gladden Executive Director

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


Save the Dates! Join French & Pickering’s Online Auction November 2-6, 2021

Trails to Tomorrow Preview begins October 22, 2021


Wayne Office 329 East Conestoga Road Wayne, PA 19087

Contact Us: 610-687-4949

Center City Office 1601 Market Street Philadelphia, PA 19102

Bidding begins November 2, 2021 at 7:00 am VISIT Preview items and bookmark the page now to be ready to bid!

is proud to support


Land Matters Fall 2021


Rising to the Challenge


t would be remiss, however tempting, not to look back at the historic and monumental year and a half of COVID-19 that we have all experienced. It set every possible trial in motion – personal, family, community, jobs, schools, restaurants, sports, music, and, yes, French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. Our staff adjusted quickly to working at home. Through a timely grant, we were able to get everyone wired so they could work as if at the office. We reopened the office and are ready to meet the need for more easements in light of expected higher development in Chester County. Raising money to keep our organization going with in-person events canceled was a challenge. We accepted 500 registered riders for our Iron Tour cycling event and provided route maps to those who registered to ride on their own time. Those who rode prolifically thanked all the volunteers continually for making it possible to ride this year. Our Auction Committee worked diligently in 2020 to turn our usual thrilling party into an exciting virtual auction. They made it work and are doing it again this November. I take my hat off to our staff, our Board of Directors and our volunteers. The French & Pickering nature lectures were able to continue by Zoom and continued to attract record-breaking audiences. Small in-person hikes, wildflower walks and birdwatching programs filled quickly and brought new people to our preserves. From day to day and weekend to weekend our preserves were busy with people wanting to get out, get some exercise and reconnect with nature. More trails were added to the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve. The Great Marsh Preserve opened with a 3½ mile forest trail featuring native trees, glorious wildflowers and special birds. Parking places were even reserved for Essential Workers. Now French & Pickering is busier than ever with easement donations and this is our number one mission. With the expectation of much more development in Chester County and with the challenges of climate right here, open land and protected waterways are more important than ever. They allow water to be absorbed during torrential rains, keep our high-value streams and creeks able to provide good clean water and provide habitat for our micro-organisms, flocks of wild turkeys and beautiful soaring eagles. Northern Chester County is an exceptional area. I feel extremely fortunate to live here. I wholeheartedly thank all the members who support French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. If you aren’t a member, please join. Become part of this wonderful active community. We’d love to have you.

Penny Hunt, Board President

Many thanks to John Nash and Mark Willcox for their service on the Board of Directors and their years of commitment to French & Pickering’s mission.

You are a piece of the puzzle.

Thank you for being a member in 2021!

Penny Hunt President of the Board of Directors

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



The Buffer at the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve



nother exciting project is underway at French & Pickering’s Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve. With generous support from many partners, French & Pickering was able to develop a plan and seek funding for a riparian buffer restoration project along the South Branch of the French Creek and secondly, to engage scientific partners to provide critical water quality sampling. These samples will demonstrate the beneficial impact that streambank buffer plantings have on our creeks’ water quality as they reduce runoff into the creek. They will also bring an even healthier space to our nature preserve while protecting the South


Land Matters Fall 2021

Branch of the French Creek with muchneeded trees to absorb runoff before it enters the stream. As part of the water quality monitoring, all of the creatures in the stream are being studied including algae, fish, aquatic insects, worms and dragonflies. Having that information will allow us to look for signs that the streambank plantings have improved the habitat and communities that live in it. Nature can respond slowly to improvement, so we won’t expect to see change right away. But the collection of monthly water chemistry samples will allow us to look for changes whenever they occur. The theory behind stream

restoration projects is that if you improve habitat and water chemistry, healthier living communities will find the site and move in over time. Another important factor in this area and throughout the Delaware River Watershed Initiative is the aggregation of projects—a single project may not be large enough to have a big effect on the stream, but when we put several projects in a watershed, we are much more likely to see improvement. This point is key in the collaborations among conservation nonprofits in the area. A patchwork of projects is being planned and implemented to bring our creeks to the healthiest

Scrubbing macroinvertebrates from under rocks into the sample collection

Examining the collection sample

possible condition, and to fight against the damage caused by wastewater discharge, nutrient runoff from farms, and other pollution caused by our human activities. Every riparian zone (the land along streams and rivers) planted with trees is a big step in protecting all the creatures living in our streams. Riparian buffers can remove up to 90% of the nutrients that can overwhelm the aquatic systems. We are encouraging working together to plant trees in every stream buffer we can and promote policies and practices that protect our water quality. In the French Creek and Pickering Creek, these projects have preserved and enhanced habitat for trout

Testing the water chemistry

and are allowing area residents to enjoy fishing, tubing and swimming. We are excited to see how this project and all our partners’ work adds up to healthier streams for people, fish and bugs. The Delaware River Watershed Initiative, funded by the William Penn Foundation (WPF), is a collaborative of over 60 environmental non-profits that spans the four states that are home to the Delaware River Watershed and operates on the founding principles of collaboration and partnership. While this riparian restoration and water quality monitoring project was initiated by Bill Gladden, Executive Director of French

& Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust, it involves many partners including the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University; Stroud Water Research Center; Green Valleys Watershed Association; riparian landowners Ray and Terry Bentley; the TreeVitalize Program (a public-private initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources); as well as generous funding from multiple supporters including the Bentleys, WPF, National Fish and Wildlife Federation, TreeVitalize and other local support.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



Land Matters Fall 2021



Reforesting the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve


rench & Pickering has begun to reforest a three-acre agricultural field on the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve (TPBNP) thanks to generous support from the TreeVitalize Grant Program which focuses on planting trees along streams, neighboring upland areas and natural stormwater basins. The result of this work is thousands of trees in sensitive water protection zones which improves water quality and reduces flooding in addition to the many other benefits that trees provide. At the TPBNP, more than 350 trees have already been planted with an additional 800 scheduled to be planted by the end of 2021. Shrubs have also been planted, and the meadow area has been reseeded. This is the first step in the larger reforestation and restoration of the preserve. The parcel was chosen as the first reforestation project due to its proximity to the South Branch of the French Creek and one of its tributaries. The South Branch is a rare ecosystem in the region, with confirmed sightings of wood turtles and freshwater mussel populations. It is also near two Audubon Important Bird Areas and is located in the Hopewell Big Woods. After the trees became established, French & Pickering volunteers with Venturing Crew 23 in Downingtown helped weed and mulch the many new trees that had been planted. Venturing is a core program of the Boy Scouts of America for young men and women ages 14 through 20. Crew 23 is chartered by Central Presbyterian Church in Downingtown, PA. TreeVitalize Watershed Funding comes from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Aqua PA and PECO.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



Geophysical Survey at Warwick Furnace

Tim Hornsley, Geophysical Specialist (left) and Paul McEachen, Director/Principal Senior Archaeologist (right) at Warwick Furace.



n behalf of French & Pickering and with thanks to Terry and Ray Bentley’s financial generosity, Richard Grubb & Associates, Inc. along with geophysical specialist Tim Horsley initiated a geophysical survey at the Warwick Furnace. A geophysical survey, including ground penetrating radar and magnetometry, is a non-invasive way to identify potential below-surface objects and features. This continuing survey work will aid in learning more about historic land use practices at Warwick Furnace and contribute to the significance of this National Register of Historic Places-listed property. Established in 1737, Warwick Furnace served as an important munitions source for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Survey goals are to examine the furnace area for possible buried structures, including a suspected nailery, and the South Branch of French Creek floodplain area for potential Revolutionary War-related artillery, including buried cannons.


Land Matters Fall 2021

Geophysical specialist Tim Horsley using a magnetic gradiometer in the field near the Valley Way Road/Warwick Furnace Road intersection.



Valley Way Road




Wildflower Meadow

Wildflower Meadow


Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust






South Branch of French Creek GATE 1

I Kestrel Nest

H Nutkin Bench

G Water Meadow Bench

F Valley View Bench

E Nutt Classroom

D Anna’s Oak

C Charcoal House

B Clerk’s House

A Iron Furnace



Kestrel Nest


Lower Meadows

Valley Way Connector


Warwick Furnace Road




Creek View Path (to overlook) Walnut Walk Charcoal House Meadow’s Edge The Cut The Passage Cattail Trail Waters Way



Great Marsh Preserve Uplands Loop Trail

Great Marsh Preserve Uplands Loop Trail (approx. 3 miles)



Great Marsh Preserve T

he Great Marsh Preserve opened ahead of schedule in May 2020 in response to the intensified interest in outdoor recreational spaces during COVID-19 restrictions. Since then, French & Pickering has been working to enhance your visitor experience through upgraded trails and expanded parking. An expanded, hilly three-mile loop trail provides access to this valuable natural space in East Nantmeal Township. To date, 113 deep woods and other species of birds have been observed at the Great Marsh Preserve with more being added to the list frequently. Along the loop trail you will also see a variety of trees including red maple, black birch, scarlet oak, sugar maple and black gum, to name just a few. To visit the Great Marsh Preserve, set your GPS to: 40°08’14.5”N75°44’30.4”W. The parking area is accessed from Templin Road.

Scan this QR Code to download a GMP Tree ID Scavenger Hunt Sheet!

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



A New Model of Conservation BY PAM BROWN


Land Matters Fall 2021


rench & Pickering easement landowners know Nancy Long as our long time Stewardship Coordinator whose buoyant personality and vast knowledge of natural resources made her the perfect ambassador for the annual monitoring visits. Nancy and her brother Tom Baldwin recently decided to put an easement on 15 wooded acres that have been in the Baldwin family for 70 years. It all started for Tom and Nancy’s parents in the spring of 1950 when Janet and Gene Baldwin were searching for a small family house to buy in their beloved rector’s parish of St. Peter’s in the Great Valley. By chance they found themselves in Charlestown Township and saw the perfect home – a small, stone, Welsh cottage by the side of

“ Because trees live much longer than humans, saving forests is a multigenerational effort. There is usually a good story behind every preserved patch of trees.” JOAN MALOOF, OLD GROWTH FOREST NETWORK

the road. They were thrilled to buy it and had no idea until they received the deed that it came with 27 acres of woods and fields. Over time they sold a few parcels and built a new house, but 15 acres of woods remained untouched except for one oak, timber cut in 1970. This land was gifted to Tom and Nancy from their mother in 2005 – a gift filled with the memories of secret hiding places, favorite trees and many handmade maps of all the trails to special places. Wishing to honor their mother’s legacy and her long history of dedicated service to Charlestown Township as well as protect the beautiful woodlands from development, Tom and Nancy brought different strengths to the easement process. Tom, with a long and successful business background, put himself in charge of figuring out how to allow for the impervious surfaces that would provide an appealing, saleable building envelope on three of the 15 acres. Nancy focused on protecting their 12 acres of a 70+ year old mixed deciduous woodland. Her experience

monitoring thousands of acres of eased land for French & Pickering made her very conscious of how important contiguous tracts of undisturbed trees are for a diverse range of wildlife. Old growth forests teem with a rich interplay of species due to their unique number of layers including networks of fungal webs in the soil, low flowering herbaceous plants in the understory and a rich variety of young, old and dead trees in the canopy. Nancy dedicated 10 acres of the oldest trees as an “Old Growth Forest for the Future.” She is happy knowing that these trees will also help with water purification and carbon sequestration long into the future. With an equal interest in the Native American practice of cultivating high value crops under a managed tree canopy, Nancy protected the remaining three acres as a “Forest Farm.” This part of the property has slightly younger trees making it an ideal environment for growing many layers of specialty crops including hickory nuts, walnuts and hazelnuts, fruit from

paw-paws, service berries, elderberries, currants and raspberries as well as medicinal crops such as ginseng, goldenseal, native ginger and mushrooms. Also encouraged in this part of the easement is the ancient practice of coppicing which involves the periodic cutting of young trees to ground level encouraging new shoots from the base. Depending on their age, the new shoots can be used to make brooms, baskets, tool handles or fence posts or many other useful and decorative objects. Coppicing can lengthen the life of a tree and produce tender young leaves for insects that are the primary protein source for many species of wildlife. Tom and Nancy have ensured this woodland will remain intact through a new way of utilizing its natural attributes as well as continuing their parents’ love for the land. Incorporating this protection strategy into an easement offers a new model to consider when woodland protection is foremost in a landowner’s mind.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust





since 1999 610.935.1112 • 14

Land Matters Fall 2021


Conservation During COVID BY PAM BROWN

Next Door Neighbors Wendy McLean and Jacob and Linda Merriwether Conserve their Properties Land protection can be a daunting process under the best conditions – establishing mutual confidence between landowner and easement holder – while wading through a sea of legal documents, securing funding for easement purchases, dealing with title issues and mortgage subordinations and on and on. Add a global pandemic to the mix and that all seems easy. Thanks to committed landowners, French & Pickering was able to close on four conservation easements in 2020 in the midst of COVID-19. Kudos to title companies Manito Abstract and Land Services for their willingness to meet in parking lots, on sidewalks and masked up for one-at-a-time entry to township buildings. Easements were signed by counterparts and in one case, mailed back and forth across the country. Once again, French & Pickering’s partnership with Charlestown Township yielded three new easements, adding to the impressive number of acres of protected lands in the township of which French & Pickering holds over 1,216 acres under conservation easement. Adjacent landowners Wendy McLean and Jacob and Linda Merriwether donated easements on their 7- and 4-acre properties, respectively, to protect a contiguous woodland habitat adjacent to township-owned Brightside Farm in Charlestown Township. Wendy’s property is mainly wooded, with a small meadow area, home to numerous pollinators and butterflies. The Merriwether’s land includes an old iron quarry and mixed-age woodlands.

Jacob Merriwether was one of the original members of the Charlestown Township Open Space Committee and Wendy McLean is an attorney with Lentz, Cantor and Massey and often assists with French & Pickering’s conservation work. Their generosity ensures the natural areas will remain undisturbed and demonstrates that small properties can have great conservation value. Linda Merriwether described their reason for donating the easement: “We live surrounded by beautiful woods. The thought of those woods being developed or destroyed was something we couldn’t bear. So an easement made perfect sense to us.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


CONSERVATION HIGHLIGHTS And we are blessed to live in Charlestown Township where our supervisors are very proactive in preserving open space. We applaud them for protecting the beauty of our land.” Wendy McLean’s relationship with Hawk Mountain and her interest in birds were motivating factors for protecting her land. “Ironically, when we first bought our property, I justified the price by explaining to my husband that it was large enough to subdivide. In fact, Chester Valley had done a sketch plan to that effect. As years went by, the notion of needing to subdivide became irrelevant, but stayed in the back of my mind as things around us changed. Meanwhile, I became aware of the biodiversity of our little wooded hill and came to recognize how special it is. “Our woods host at least five species of woodpeckers and an additional species during annual migrations. Great horned and screech owls breed there. One of the most moving bird events for our little hill, however, is that it is used as a night roost for migrating broad-winged hawks. This, together with the diversity of the year-round resident birds and other creatures, made me want to preserve the property, especially the woods if I could afford to. As it turns out, the conservation easement did not impair my ability to sell the property for a fair price when the time came. Although I still miss the environment and the creatures, it gives me some comfort to know that I took steps to keep their habitat intact for the future, to the extent I could.”

Tom and Marjorie Seibert An easement was placed on Tom and Marjorie Seibert’s 19.7-acre property on Pikeland Road through a purchase by Charlestown Township. Numerous specimen trees dot the landscape, which is visible from over 400 feet along Pikeland Road. More than eight acres of contiguous woodlands within the property will continue to provide habitat to numerous


Land Matters Fall 2021

land and aquatic animals and perpetuate and foster the growth of a healthy and unfragmented forest or woodland. The biologically diverse meadow and grassland habitat, including native species, will continue to provide nesting and denning sites for a variety of fauna, as well as cover and forage for species dependent on flowering and seed-producing plants. We are thankful for the Seibert’s generosity and grateful to Charlestown Township for the opportunity to protect this ecologically valuable and beautiful property.

Eighteen Years, LLC Superhero partners Paul and Cynthia Black and Bob and Shelley Casciato have once again prevented a high-density development along St. Matthews Road in West Vincent Township. Two years after protecting 100 acres under the Sixteen Years, LLC partnership, along with Wilson and Barbara Taylor, they formed Eighteen Years, LLC to conserve the remaining 54 acres that were slated for development. Eighteen house sites were eliminated through this easement, with just one 2-lot subdivision now remaining. Thanks

to their combined efforts, an 87-home approved subdivision was reduced to 6 residences. Located on the corner of Beaver Hill and St. Matthews Roads, the property consists of 15 acres of forest, home to nesting Bald Eagles. The remaining acres are leased for farming, with special protection for the vegetated stream corridor. A grass waterway and rock outlets have been installed to prevent runoff into the stream from the agricultural activities. A perimeter trail along Beaver Hill Road creates a link to the Preserve at Bryn Coed, including a road crossing at St. Matthews. Grants for the purchase of the easement were secured from West Vincent Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and a Farm Buffer Easement grant from the Open Space Institute. Bob Casciato relayed the following overview: “The originally planned Cutler Development of 87 houses was situated on 153 acres which included the100 acre Wilson Farm plus another 53 acres off of Beaver Hill and St. Matthews Road. With the invaluable assistance of French

& Pickering, Sixteen Years, LLC was able to place a conservation easement on the 100- acre Wilson Farm effectively blocking the original Cutler development and preventing the clear cutting of a beautifully wooded area which includes a tributary to the French Creek. With Bryn Coed now under the protection of Natural Lands, a dream so many of us had for years, has become a reality. “At the beginning of 2018 I received notice that the Cutler Group was proposing a 20-house development on the remaining 54 acre parcel off of Beaver Hill Rd. The beautiful, wooded area that included many mature and majestic beech

trees was once again in jeopardy. I called Natural Lands to see if they could help out, but they were understandably focused on the Bryn Coed project. I imagined the 54-acre Beaver Hill parcel as the “donut hole” surrounded by Bryn Coed and the preserved Wilson Farm. The thought of a development in the middle of that beautiful landscape was painful. I put a call into the Cutler Group and made them an offer for the land with no contingencies and a quick settlement, and to my surprise, it was accepted. I needed help in pulling this off and Paul and Cynthia Black came to the rescue. Paul, Cynthia, my wife Shelley and I formed Eighteen Years LLC and quickly acquired the property. Pam Brown and French & Pickering worked tirelessly, and we were able to finalize the conservation easement and closed the “donut hole” forever. Many thanks to Pam for doing all the heavy lifting to help us navigate this complicated process. “Every day I look out over these rolling hills and marvel at their beauty, knowing that for generations to come, others will be doing the same. It is a really good feeling,” Bob concluded.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


Stand for the Sam and Eleanor Morris, deeply committed to open space conservation, founded French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust in 1967 – one of the country’s first nonprofits to use conservation easements to preserve land in perpetuity. Today, what the Morrises ignited has permanently preserved 13,135 acres… and counting.

Now more than ever, we must Stand for the Land, ensuring this legacy can survive the challenges ahead.

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.”

Robert Swan

© AnneMarie Fields


Land Matters Fall 2021

e lAND

Stand for


Stand for the Land Capital Campaign

$6 million by 2027

Immediate Needs Fund 2022-2024 $1,995,000 Forever Fund (Yields $60,200/yr.) $1,505,000

Immediate Needs Fund 2022-2024 $1,995,000

Watershed $300,000 Conservationist $195,000 Land Preservation Fund $1,500,000

Conservationist Fund (Yields $100,000/yr.) $2,500,000


Immediate Needs Fund

Conservationist Fund

Forever Fund




French & Pickering has already raised $1.1 million for immediate needs for 2022-2024. We need to raise $885,000 more to:

Interim conservationist funding will expire by 2025. The endowed Conservationist Fund will generate $100,000/year for a highly skilled conservationist to keep up with the increasingly technical and expensive work of conserving land and educating landowners on the benefits of conservation.

It is one thing to execute easements, quite another to ensure they are protected in perpetuity. This fund will generate $62,200/year – funds that are critical to ensure easements are honored, landowners are engaged in the cause, and the land is defended when illegal actions threaten it.

•P ay for conservation staff ($195,000) •M aintain and improve water purity ($300,000), and •B uild our rapid action Land Preservation Fund ($1,500,000).


French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



A Successful Year for Nature Programming F

rench & Pickering’s Third Thursday Talks and Second Sunday Scenic Hikes saw record attendance this year. Community members attended free, informative presentations from the comfort of their homes as we explored significant local environmental topics. Many thanks to the volunteers who comprise the French & Pickering Program Committee for the time and energy they invest in keeping these great programs coming.


Several of the most popular speakers for Third Thursday Talks included: • Emelie Swackhamer, a Penn State University Extension educator who presented a Spotted Lantern Fly update. • Dolly Rosen of Warwick Furnace Farm who gave us insight into “Not Just Peter Rabbit: The Many Sides of Conservationist Beatrix Potter.”


Land Matters Fall 2021


• Lauren Ferreri, Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area manager, and Volunteer Joe Monte who spoke on “Snow Geese Migrations: Behind the Scenes at Middle CreekWildlife Preserve.” • Vince Smith, President of the Valley Forge Audubon Society who presented “All About Owls.” We welcomed more than 800 participants in the first six months of 2021 virtual lectures. If there is a program you missed or you would like to see again, recordings of past programs may be accessed through

Second Sunday Scenic Hikes recommenced this year, with required reservations and limited numbers. Members and the community enjoyed a variety of themes at the Preserves, including: • Penny Hunt and Nancy Bartley lead an Introduction to the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve history and hike. • Naturalist Jim Moffett led a guided spring wildflower walk at the Great Marsh Preserve. • Audubon’s Patty Werth and French & Pickering’s Penny Hunt organized an “Introduction to Birding” walk at the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve. • Pennsylvania Master Naturalist Diana Cormack led a winter tree scavenger hunt at the Great Marsh Preserve.

We hope to see you at a future lecture or hike!


Partnering with the Valley Forge Audubon Society


rench & Pickering and the Valley Forge Audubon Society have partnered several times over the last year to bring educational programs to the community. Between Audubon Board President Vince Smith’s lectures on “Hawk ID for Beginners’’ and “All About Owls,” French & Pickering hosted more than 450 attendees. These two programs were very popular as Vince engaged the audience with practical, relevant information. As the world began to open in 2021, French & Pickering was pleased to lead its first in-person hike since the beginning of the pandemic and welcomed Audubon’s Patty Werth to co-organize “Birding for Beginners – A Guided Nature Walk” with

French & Pickering’s Board President Penny Hunt. Armed with binoculars and sturdy shoes, 10 participants walked the rolling hills of the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve and learned about the many bird species that reside on the Preserve. With over 117 bird species having been observed there, it has earned the accolade of a “birding hot spot.” Valley Forge Audubon Society was founded in 1960 to encourage conservation of natural resources, including wildlife, plants, soil, air and water. Valley Forge Audubon is a chapter of the National Audubon Society serving Delaware and Chester counties, and parts of Montgomery and Philadelphia counties. Its mission

is to preserve birds, other wildlife and their habitats by promoting appreciation and stewardship of the local natural environment. The chapter focus is on using native plants to promote healthy habitats. We look forward to furthering our partnership with the Valley Forge Audubon Society in 2022 and beyond. Attendee responses from “All About Owls”: Amazing presentation!; Great lecture, thanks!

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



Accredited Status Renewed One thing that unites us as a nation is land. Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1967, French & Pickering has been doing just that for the people of northern Chester County.

We are pleased to announce that French & Pickering has earned its renewed land trust accreditation status – demonstrating once again that, as part of a network of over 450 accredited land trusts across the nation, we are committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in our conservation work. “Renewing our accreditation shows French & Pickering’s ongoing commitment to permanent land conservation in northern Chester County,” said Kersten Appler, Director of Development and Operations. French & Pickering provided extensive documentation (over 200 documents) and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. After review, the Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded the organization with renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that French & Pickering’s lands will be protected forever due to its high level of commitment to excellence.

“ We are a stronger organization than ever

Accredited land trusts now steward almost 20 million acres – the size of Vermont, New

for having gone through the rigorous

Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode

accreditation renewal process. Our

Island combined.

strength means special places – such as

“It is exciting to recognize French & Pickering Creeks

the Thomas P. Bentley Nature Preserve – will be protected forever, making northern Chester County an even greater place for us and our children.” ERSTEN APPLER, DIRECTOR OF K DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS

Conservation Trust’s continued commitment to national standards by renewing this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, Executive Director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 450 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.” French & Pickering is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census.


Land Matters Fall 2021


610–917–9940 610–917–9940

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


LENTZ, CANTOR & MASSEY, LTD. Attorneys at Law 460 E. King Road Malvern, PA 19355


Albert P. Massey, Jr. Andrew H. Dohan Wendy W. McLean Heather Burns Pozniak

Robert C. F. Willson Sean A. O’Neill Scott E. Yaw Loreen M. Kemps

General Representation - Business, Personal; Wills, Trusts, Estate Planning; Criminal and Civil Litigation; Family Law; Real Estate; Construction Law; Land Use Planning; Real Estate Tax Appeals; Condemnation

(610) 722-5800 ●

A rare breed of professionals, an uncommon level of service.

PA HIC #PA9550

851 Kimberton Road | Chester Springs PA 19425 | 610.827.7990 | ESTABLISHED 1992


Land Matters Fall 2021


French & Pickering’s Board of Directors Welcomes New Members

James R. (“JR”) Fisher

Edie Shean-Hammond

Ashton Simmons

JR Fisher has more than 15 years of experience in client service and five years of experience in the financial services industry. He enjoys cultivating relationships with the individuals and families with whom he works. JR supports several charities and believes we leave our legacy through those we assist and the joy we bring to others. He serves as Chair of the local Tire Rack Street Survival Teen Driving School; President of the Board of Trustees of the Delaware River Greenway Partnership; Treasurer and Board Member of Schuylkill River Greenways; Treasurer and Board Member of Nancy’s House; and as Steering Committee Member of the Bike Chester County and French & Pickering’s French Creek Iron Tour. Along with his wife Suzanne and their three children, JR can frequently be seen cycling the many local trails or paddling on the local rivers, lakes, and creeks. JR and his family live in Phoenixville and he shares that “the town of Phoenixville brought our family to northern Chester County, but it is the open space, trails, rivers and creeks that keep us here. These open spaces and the ongoing work to preserve and conserve them are incredibly important to me and our communities in Chester County.”

Edie Shean-Hammond is passionate about open space. She has more than 40 years of experience promoting, protecting and preserving land with the U.S. National Park System, most recently serving as Superintendent, Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Her interest in French & Pickering stems from its role as coordinator of the Hopewell Big Woods Partnership. “My background, knowledge, skills and abilities can help Hopewell Big Woods and French & Pickering achieve their mission and goals,” she says. Edie is currently Chair of the North Coventry Township Open Space Review Board; on the Steering Committee of the Iron and Steel Heritage Partnership; President of the Board of the Centro Cultural Latinos Unidos; active board member of the Friends of Hopewell Furnace; Co-Chair of the Hopewell Big Woods Advisory Board on Historic Preservation, and a member of the Vestry of Christ Episcopal Church. When she is not working, Edie enjoys spending time with family, as well as her many hobbies including church, karate, walking, biking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking, exploring, history and learning.

Ashton Simmons is a Chester County/ Downingtown native, trained attorney and real estate executive who works all over the United States. He returned to the area from California in 2019 with his family and settled in West Pikeland Township “to get back to my roots,” he says. He immediately joined the township’s Historical Architectural Review Board and soon after, the Parks and Recreational Committee. Ashton says his interest in joining the French & Pickering Board is, ”According to the Chester County Planning Commission, 30% of the County's undeveloped open space is unprotected. Similarly, 30% of the my township's undeveloped open space is unpro-tected. While we have done a great job in conserving land, there is still a lot of work to be done. I want to bring my real estate expertise and creativity to the table to help.” His work nationally focuses on repurposing shopping centers. He has served on the boards of the local YMCA, Rotary, Chamber of Commerce and other organizations in the East Bay Area of California. Ashton spends fall weekends attending his son’s college football games in New England and other weekends exploring Chester County restaurants with his wife Paige. Their daughter works at the Brandywine SPCA.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


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Land Matters Fall 2021


Blazing a Trail for the Future


s French & Pickering’s first Nature Preserve Management Intern, Austin Graver spent the summer on trail maintenance (mowing, putting in trail posts/markers), making maps of the Preserves, tree planting and watering along the Memorial Trail, collecting water samples and delivering them to Green Valleys Watershed Association and doing general maintenance to keep the preserves and ruins looking their best. Austin’s passion is the environment. Beyond his work with French & Pickering, Austin studied the effect on ecosystems of human-made forest edges at The Stroud Preserve; conducted assessments of aquatic communities around a discharge site at Taylor Run Water Treatment Plant; and assessed population structure in a temperate deciduous forest at the Gordon Natural Area. Austin is a student at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and will graduate in December with a B.S. in biology, with a concentration in ecology and conservation.

We thank Austin for his dedication and hard work this summer and wish him the best as he finishes his degree.

Longtime Staff Member Donna Delany Retires ... sort of


ur heartfelt thank you to Donna Delany for her 14 years of dedication and service to French & Pickering. Donna joined French & Pickering in 2007 as the first staff member in our Stewardship Department, where she developed the easement monitoring program to be more than an annual inspection. Land trusts are required to monitor their easements annually to ensure that the terms of the easement are honored forever. With David Harper’s guidance, Donna envisioned the annual visit to be a time of connecting with landowners, listening to their concerns, hearing the latest news about their property, observing and recording changes in flora and fauna over time, and sharing information to help people be better stewards of the land. Donna is the creative force behind the French & Pickering Facebook page, contributing educational environmental content. She creatively uses Facebook to share events, news and information that positively affect the environmental mindfulness of our community. Fortunately, she continues to do so as a volunteer. Donna left French & Pickering to start The Backyard Nature Preserve on her farm in Chester Springs. She and her husband, Dave, are creating and demonstrating ways the average homeowner can take better care of the environment. Their exhibits include solar panels, rain gardens, meadows, pollinator and songbird support, a companion vegetable garden, groundcovers, and composting, plus a 10-acre woodland protected from deer and invasive plants.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



Thank you to French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust

Annual Sponsors BENEFACTOR

L. Stockton Illoway NATURALIST

Gwen Kelly Klein Cary Leptuck and Nancy Corson STEWARD

Bradley and Ann Dyer

The Morris Society

We would like to recognize the following individuals for their foresight and generosity as founding members of French & Pickering’s Morris Society. These individuals embody the stewardship ethic and forethought that drives French & Pickering’s work and have shown a commitment to our future generations by including French & Pickering within their Legacy Planning. Nancy Corson Ann and Bradley Dyer Holly and Richard S. Gross L. Stockton Illoway Gwen Kelly Klein Deborah McKechnie Lawrence Liss and Celeste McQuade Nancy Cummings Moyer Margaret L. and Hank Pellegrini Robert C.F. Willson

“The future depends on what you do today.”


Land Matters Fall 2021

Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to our many new members! In 2021, we welcomed over 50 new members and more than 600 returning members to the French & Pickering membership community. If you were one of them, thank you.

“Our family is delighted to become members and support a better tomorrow! Thank you for all the work you do! We look forward to learning ways to help support the conservation of open spaces to protect the habitat and keep our community healthier, happier, and preserved in perpetuity!”

“I joined French & Pickering to help with land conservation and to help keep our water clean!”

We are thrilled to welcome you and that a good number of you have been a part of the programming – the bird walks, the Zoom lectures. We had record interest in member-only hikes and early registration. With your help, we have worked tirelessly to protect the water quality in our streams, the views that we cherish and provide nature-based programming that is relevant to all ages. We welcome your feedback on your membership experience and hope to deepen our relationship with you and your commitment to conservation in 2022!

“These protected properties add so much to the community.”


Volunteer Spotlight: Kara Dougherty “ Working with the people at French & Pickering and on the Auction Committee is a lot of fun. There are great people involved in the cause.” KARA DOUGHERTY

When Kara moved from Montgomery County to Chester County, she most appreciated the beautiful open space. After meeting her neighbor Blake Swihart, Chair of French & Pickering’s Auction Committee, it was only a matter of time before Kara joined the effort. She has been serving on the Auction Committee for four years, using it as an opportunity to help preserve the land she fell in love with 26 years ago. For Kara, her efforts have a

wonderful bonus: the opportunity to work with French & Pickering’s passionate staff and volunteers. Kara laughed recounting the auctions over the years; some battered by snowstorms, some attended in shortsleeves, and, as of 2020, one conducted virtually. Though the virtual event posed unique challenges, she was happy to be involved with yet another successful fundraising event. “I feel honored to be able to work with the Auction Committee and French & Pickering,” she continued. “I’m able to make an impact directly, and you don’t always get that.” Kara loves going on walks and horseback riding through the French & Pickering

watersheds, soaking up the spirit of our natural spaces and enjoying the benefits of her volunteerism firsthand. For her, French & Pickering preserves something more than land; it preserves character. “We need to preserve open space if we want to preserve the character of Chester County,” she stated. We couldn’t agree more! French & Pickering is incredibly grateful for our volunteers. We could not do our work without them. Scan this QR Code to join the French & Pickering volunteer community!



Land Matters Fall 2021

French & Pickering Welcomes New Staff Members Karena DiLeo and Mercedes (“Liz”) Rutter to the Team!

Karena DiLeo

Liz Rutter

Karena DiLeo joined French & Pickering as Stewardship Coordinator in February. She comes to us from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) where she worked as an endangered and threatened species biologist for nine years. During her tenure at NJDEP, Karena focused on habitat restoration and evaluation, specializing in vernal pools. She also had the opportunity to work with landowners and farmers to promote federal and state programs to protect and improve habitat for the bog turtle (Glyptemys muhlenbergii), which is federally listed as threatened. Prior to joining NJDEP, Karena completed her M.S. at Rutgers University studying

amphibians in the Pinelands of New Jersey. In her new role as Stewardship Coordinator, Karena is excited to work together with interested landowners to protect native species and diverse habitats on protected lands. Please join us in welcoming Karena to northern Chester County. Liz Rutter joined the French & Pickering staff in April. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Pennsylvania State University and has worked in marketing communications and employee communications for many years. When Liz is not working, she enjoys being active outdoors, including fishing, hiking and biking. If you see Liz, ask her about her honey bees.

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French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust

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Land Matters Fall 2021


Vernal Pools Matter BY KARENA DILEO

Vernal pools are ephemeral wetlands frequently found in forested landscapes. These isolated, shallow depressions may appear insignificant, but they have a big impact on the surrounding ecosystem. Vernal pools lack a permanent surface connection to flowing water, instead filling with rising groundwater, increasing rainfall, and snowmelt during the fall or winter, and then drying in the summer as temperatures rise and groundwater is depleted. Due to this seasonality, vernal pools are incredibly productive ecosystems, creating critical breeding habitat for amphibians and invertebrates; providing forage for mammals, reptiles and birds; and connecting terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Each vernal pool is unique, with species composition based upon timing and duration of inundation, solar exposure, depth and surrounding habitat. Marbled salamanders breed in pools that fill in the fall, entering the dry pool and depositing



© Brian Zarate

© MacKenzie Hall


their eggs under woody debris prior to inundation. As the pool fills, the eggs hatch and the larvae remain under the ice all winter. Each generation of fairy shrimp completes its entire life cycle during the wet season, laying the next generation’s


© MacKenzie Hall

© Jack Ray, Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program

1. Vernal pool in the late winter. 2. Wood frog (Lithobates sylvatica). 3. A female marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum) guards her eggs in the dry vernal pool. 4. Springtime fairy shrimp (Eubranchipus vernalis).

drought-resistant eggs to hatch when the pool fills again. Wood frogs are the first species to enter the ponds in the spring, frequently leaving the forest while snow remains on the ground. These emphatic breeders sing loud choruses before depositing large floating mats of eggs that hatch, mature and metamorphose into adults before the pond dries. Vernal pools do more than just provide critical habitats, they increase resilience to fluctuations in precipitation and run-off throughout a watershed. Their connection to groundwater systems helps maintain healthy, functioning surface and subsurface water conditions. When vernal pools are removed from the landscape, water absorption during rainfall and snowmelt decreases causing increased run-off which results in lower water quality as sediment, nutrients and pollution are transported into waterways. As climate continues to change and severe weather events become more frequent, protecting vernal pool ecosystems can help to safeguard our local communities from poor water quality, increased flooding and lack of groundwater recharge.

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust



Partner Profiles French & Pickering partners with many organizations in order to connect landowners with resources that will enable healthy environmental stewardship of their protected properties and provide educational opportunities to the northern Chester County community. Below are just three examples of what happens when we work together. One such partnership is with the Valley Forge Chapter of Trout Unlimited (VFTU). VFTU is working with landowners who have property adjacent to the Pickering Creek and its tributaries. VFTU received permission from landowners to place water temperature loggers in the Pickering Creek and its tributaries to find the best areas for fish habitat. The goal is to find the best water


in which to reintroduce native brook trout eggs and restore the fish population. This study is ongoing. Information from the loggers was retrieved in early June from two locations. The Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) also partners with landowners. French & Pickering’s

The fencing will keep the resident cattle away from the creek banks for healthier cows and cleaner water.

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Land Matters Fall 2021

John A. Koury, Jr. Richard D. Linderman David S. Kaplan Henry T. Zale David A. Megay James C. Kovaleski Michael B. Murray, Jr Rebecca A. Hobbs James R. Freeman Gary L. Stein Joseph K. Koury Melissa A. Iacobucci Thomas P. McCabe

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easement landowner Thorncroft Therapeutic Riding Center was struggling with pasturage and water runoff problems and needed more pastureland. French & Pickering was able to connect Thorncroft with the CCCD to assess their needs, provide information and a suggested plan to create wetlands and a riparian buffer which would improve existing pasturage, as well as aid water runoff. Through French & Pickering’s partnership, the CCCD has also applied for grant funding on behalf of easement landowner, Why Not Farm, in order to erect fencing along the Black Horse Creek. The fencing will keep the resident cattle away from the creek banks and reduce the damage to them.


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Join us online for French & Pickering’s 39th Annual Auction November 2-6, 2021

Preview begins October 22. Bidding begins November 2 at 7:00 am!


The annual Auction Event is one of two events that raises critical funds to support the mission of French & Pickering. Adapting to the times, the French & Pickering Auction Committee made the decision to run the 2020 Auction totally online.

very low res image (small)

Given the technical complexities of running a virtual event as well as rallying the committee members to develop and manage an online auction, the all-volunteer committee did an extraordinary job. Many of us were cautious of this first-time adventure and tried to make sure we were not too ambitious.

WINNERS OF THE 2020 BEEKEEPING EXPERIENCE Jen and Mike Trachtman were the successful bidders. “It was a wonderful, educational experience for all of us. Our son Ben and wife Claire especially enjoyed learning from Tim Ferris of Extract and Box, LLC about the scientific aspects of beekeeping and keeping bees healthy.”

Thanks to French & Pickering supporters’ participation in the 2020 online Auction and to the Committee as well as the French & Pickering Board and staff, the event was very successful. We had a great list of sponsors, there were several bidding wars, and many items sold over listing price. Our goal for the 2021 Auction, which again will be online, is to include more items and develop more camaraderie and fun opportunities for our supporters and the community so that together we can raise more money for French & Pickering.


There will be many great local experiences and items to bid on, including vacation homes, one-of-a-kind artisanal crafts, a kayak trip for four, a catered dinner and unusual vintage items. Thank you to local artist Deb Kuhn, who created an original watercolor illustration of the auction theme, as she has for the past 20 years. We encourage supporters to join the 39th Annual Auction Party online, to host Auction parties at their homes with the last few hours of the event as the entertainment, and share social media posts of auction items and experiences.


VISIT Preview items and bookmark the page now to be ready to bid!

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


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Land Matters Fall 2021


French Creek Iron Tour


n another year full of change, the 19th Annual French Creek Iron Tour forged ahead safely, creatively and successfully adapting to the ever-changing conditions of the continued pandemic. Mother Nature even did her part this year with a clear, cool day. Between June 5 and 13 many registered riders created their own adventures wherever and whenever they were able, some riding traditional Iron Tour routes ranging from 11 to 100 miles. The supported, 500-person ride took place June 13 with the help of over 120 volunteers. Leslie Vuilleumier and her daughter Caroline did the virtual ride and shared, “This is the first French Creek Iron Bike Tour I have actually ridden in…(as) my family traditionally comes from Connecticut, Boston and New York to volunteer at the Yellow Springs rest stop. But due to COVID, that was not possible last year or this year. I am so glad I could participate in the actual riding part even though it was in the comfort of my own home with air conditioning. Caroline and I teamed up and we each rode 11 miles on our spin bikes. Caroline did her ride outside in 90-degree weather in Boston. I was a little more comfortable in my cool house!”

Erin and Bob Shope also registered for the virtual ride, racking up 65 miles on their own during the week. “Mission accomplished,” noted Bob! Of special note this year were the many nationalities that were represented at the Kimberton Fairgrounds on June 13 as we came together to support open space preservation, including Italy, Guatemala, Costa Rica, England, South Africa, Switzerland and Colombia. A special thank you to the riders, generous sponsors and volunteers for their understanding, flexibility, and adaptability, all of which made this year’s French Creek Iron Tour a very successful event.

Mark your 2022 calendar for Sunday, June 12 and join us for a

Special 20th Annual

French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust


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