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Spring 2005

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History of the Middletown Township Land Conservancy

The Middletown Township Land Conservancy (MTLC) was formed in 1981 when a group of neighbors joined together to attempt to preserve from development the 36 acre Indian Orchard Girl Scout property which was being offered for sale. This natural area was one of the few available, undeveloped large tracts of land in a sea of houses and included 100 to 200 year old trees, three streams that are part of the Chester Creek watershed and a rich habitat for small animals and numerous migratory and nesting birds.

Herman and Edith Cope, who owned the adjacent farm, purchased the property in 1919. In 1932 the Girl Scouts were invited to use this wooded park for their camping area and, subsequently, purchased the property from the Swan family in 1952. Fred Swan married Sarah Cope in 1936 and they moved to the farm in 1972 when they retired. The Swan’s daughter, Nancy Bernhardt, and her family, the current owners of the farm, moved to the property in 1973. And so it was in 1981, that the Swans and Bernhardts and one of those concerned neighbors, Lou Fournier of Cricket Lane, became the prime movers in an effort to persuade the Township to purchase the former Girl Scout camp for a passive recreation park. The Township was awarded a grant of $75,000 from the Federal government, while a fund raising drive was begun by the newly incorporated Middletown Township Land Conservancy to supplement the Township funds necessary to reach the approximate $225,000 purchase price. Indian Orchard Park was officially dedicated by Township officials on September 21, 1985.

The seed was planted. In 1987 a special binding referendum, Project 300 (which celebrated Middletown Township’s 300th anniversary of incorporation) won overwhelming approval from the voters and opened the way for the Township to acquire over three hundred acres of farmland owned by the Linvill and Darlington families. MTLC played a major role in changing attitudes about open space preservation in the Township.

Also in 1987, MTLC became one of the holders of a perpetual easement for conservation purposes on a 34.7 acre parcel of land adjoining the Rocky Run Creek in the Township. Originally owned by Wawa, Inc., the parcel was part of a subdivision agreement with the Township. As a holder of the conservation easement, MTLC has a duty to enforce the conservation restrictions that have been placed on the property and of ensuring that the property remains in its natural state.

In 1995 David Lansdale, a charter member of MTLC, conveyed 4.7 acres of his land adjoining Indian Orchards Park to the Township. The walking trails of the park were extended through this additional acreage which became known as Lansdale’s Glen.

In the early years of Indian Orchards Park, MTLC was very active on bridge and trail projects. Bird and plant censuses were conducted. Numerous other activities outside of Indian Orchards Park, some brought to the directors by members of the community, have been supported by MTLC. These activities and projects have included: The Middletown Township Big Tree Contests I and II and Big Tree Registry; annual seedling sale; various wildflower, native plant and trail beautification projects; the development of butterfly habitat in the community; the construction of a Township-wide walking trail system in cooperation with the Parks and Recreation Department and, more recently, the American Chestnut Tree restoration project.

MTLC and the group of kindred spirits who have served on the board of directors these past 23 years, has served as a role model for other fledgling land conservation groups throughout Delaware County. Although the zeal to save the Girl Scout property is no longer the driving force of MTLC, vigilance to insure the continued preservation of this and other natural areas nearby is the continued focus.