Imagine, if you will, strolling through an ancient forest with only the sound of gentle wind and soft birdsong disturbing leaves of an emerald-hue. Perhaps your journey will take you along a winding river that teams with fish, frogs and other aquatic wildlife, like you seeking the tranquility and energy that only the wilderness can bring. Maybe you are the rugged explorer type: climbing rocky ridgelines with little more than a rope and your own courage, wading through the shallows without a care in the world. Even those who are new to exploring these great expanses, or not quite as dedicated as some, can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, all from within a modernized cabin. Is this a dream? No, this place is in fact a reality, one that exists, year round, in the form of the Pennsylvanian wilderness. As with any paradise, however, dedicated guardians are needed to ensure the longevity and purity of these great wilds. The Lancaster County Conservancy is one of the strongest and oldest of those who would see the green space of Pennsylvania preserved, promoted and protected for one and all.
Coming Together In the Summer of ’69
The Lancaster County Conservancy is a perfect example of what occurs when a close-knit group of intelligent, mindful individuals get together with a common goal in mind and end up creating an organization that lasts nearly half a century. A non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization, the LCC came to be in the spring of 1969 through the combined efforts of Robert Fasnacht, Robert Mowrer, John Helter, Amos Funk, and Clayton Shenk. All men, dedicated environmentalists and members of towns within Lancaster County, felt the need to help encourage a deeper connection between the men and women of the county and the natural world that exists just outside their doors. Since then, the organization has blossomed into an incredible force of communal energy. Land protection and preservation, environmental stewardship, public environmental education and the increased development of urban green space are the goals which the Lancaster County Conservancy devotes most of their time and effort.
Acres of Community
Unity, in most cases, naturally turns into strength. Looking at the way in which the Lancaster County Conservancy acquires land, it can be seen without a doubt that the LCC takes to heart this method of growth, more or less. When last assessed near the start of last year, the group had purchased or been given over six thousand one hundred acres of Pennsylvanian land. The preferred and most successful way in which the LCC is able to obtain land is via the voice of the Lancaster County community, with the voices of volunteers, benefactors and land owners providing both guidance and opportunity. A Fee Simple acquisition is the preferred method of land ownership, according to the LCC. The acquisition is made, more often than not, through charitable land donations which can be either full or partial in their delivery. Due to the charitable action of this particular sort of land acquisition, there are often a number of special rules or suggestions that are made by the donors, usually pertaining to what should be done to the land when it comes into possession of the Lancaster County Conservancy. The second variety of land acquisition typically made by the LCC is called a Conservative Easement. This acquisition differs from a Fee Simple one in that the land is never actually owned, in name, by the LCC. Instead, the group works with the landowner in question to help maintain the historic/natural value of the land, in addition to upholding whatever plans said landowner has for it in the future. There also exists the possibility of a substantial tax benefit, depending on the nature of the land donation made to the Lancaster County Conservancy.
Stewards of Steadfast Conservation
When a resource is abundantly available, so too is there the responsibility to treat it with respect, and be wise in its use. The same principle can be easily applied to the land that the Lancaster County Conservancy has, is, and will be acquiring. Stewardship, or “the careful management of our lands for the health of the ecosystem, the enjoyment of the public, and the benefit of Lancaster County” as defined by the LCC is an integral part acquiring future parcels of land and maintaining the current ones. To look after a trail or preserve in order to keep the land strong is not quite as simple as picking up trash. Always with their eyes on the future, the Lancaster County Conservancy is constantly looking to create and maintain the land they own via the planting of trees/other flora and removing non-native plants which threaten the balance of the local ecosystem. Ensuring the safety of trails for both wildlife and human visitors alike is accomplished by changing the course of/rebuilding the woodland paths in order to fight erosion. Stewardship is practiced just as thoroughly within the nine hundred acres of conservative easements which the group has become a part of over the years.
Educating a County from the Ground Up
Reaching out to the community by delivering unto them the seeds of environmental knowledge is another top priority of the Lancaster County Conservancy. The LCC aims to conduct its own unique environmental education program which will provide the opportunity for all within the Lancaster County community and beyond to develop a strong sense of environmental ethics and community. Making use of the land and resources already owned by the LCC, the educational program will be lead by knowledgeable veterans of the Conservancy who promote an engaging and inclusive value system. This system will be available for all ages to learn, but will offer specialized environmental education for the high, middle and primary school-aged members of the community. An interdisciplinary approach to education, the combination of hands-on nature experiences and free play will be taught in tandem with traditional subjects such as math, social studies and physical education.
Urban Greening, a Natural Harmony
While environmental protection and stewardship is of the utmost importance to the LCC, so too is the practice of Urban Greening. In order to keep Lancaster County healthy for years to come, the organization makes a point of encouraging practices within urban communities which promote environmental sustainability, such as communal gardens, storm water management, tree planting or composting initiatives. Formerly known as LIVE Green, the Urban Greening program focuses on improving the relationship between governmental, non-profit and for-profit organizations in order to maximize both financial support and new, bold ideas that will help advance the growth of green-space within Lancaster County. The program is known for its practical approach in assisting the community, from helping with the installation of gardens and rain barrels to having LCC volunteers plant trees in parks and other fertile urban space. Lancaster County Conservancy has also created an initiative called the Lancaster Water Week, which focuses on preserving and utilizing the County’s natural bounty of fresh water in ways which are both beneficial and sustainable for the community.
The Lancaster County Conservancy (https://lancasterconservancy.org/) is located at 117 South West End Avenue, Lancaster, PA 17603-3396. Office hours are Monday to Friday, 8a.m. to 5p.m. The LCC can be reached via telephone at 717-392-7891 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .