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August 01, 2023

Chester County farm permanently preserved in effort to protect natural lands from development

The Aguilar property, located in East Nantmeal Township, sits along Beaver Run Creek and features a wetland and woodlands. It's the latest land to be set aside for conservation by the county

Environment Preservation
Chester County Farm Preservation Robyn Jeney/Natural Lands

The 44-acre Aguilar Farm in East Nantmeal Township, Chester County has been permanently preserved as part of Chester County's efforts to invest in open spaces.

A 44-acre farm in Chester County has been permanently preserved, protecting its rolling hills, waterways and woodlands from development. 

The sprawling property in East Nantmeal Township, owned by Martin Aguilar, is being preserved in perpetuity with the help of Natural Lands, a Media-based land conservation organization that works to preserve open spaces and protect natural lands in the Philadelphia region. A conservation easement, a legally-binding agreement that restrict development, has been placed on the entire farm.

Beaver Run Creek and one of its tributaries flow along the northern portion of the property. Beaver Run eventually runs into French Creek, which joins the Schuylkill River just upstream of Norristown, Montgomery County. The Beaver Run basin, which has exceptional water quality, is an important source of drinking water and recreation, according to Natural Lands. 

The farm also features a small wetland area teeming with native plans, insects and wildlife. East Nantmeal plans to place a public trail easement on the portion of the property that borders Horseshoe Trail Road in the hopes of connecting the farm to the region's trail network.

"The property is really special because of the water there," said Jack Stefferud, senior director of land protection at Natural Lands. "Beaver Run and one of its tributaries cut through the northern portion of the land. The area around the creek bands is a floodplain, which absorbs and slows stormwater during major rainstorms." 

The farm is located within the Nantmeal Village Historic District, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2014. The historic district consists of a village center surrounded by small farms, many of which are centuries old and retain much of their historic materials. 

The Aguilar property has been preserved with funding provided by East Nantmeal Township, the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation and the Conservation Grant Program underwritten by Chester County Commissioners. It's part of a larger effort within the county to invest in protecting open spaces. 

"Preserving a property like this one checks all the right boxes in Chester County's efforts to invest widely in open space," Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said in a joint statement. "The Aguilar property has historical value, the Beaver Run Creek runs through it, its woodlands extend the amazing high-quality woodlands already preserved there, and it is all located within the fast-developing Route 100 corridor. We are pleased to partner with Natural Lands and East Nantmeal Township on preserving this irreplaceable natural and historical site." 

This preservation easement comes on the heels of two other preservation projects in Chester County. Last month, the county commissioners approved the preservation of the 101-acre Kavanagh Farm, a former grist mill in Upper Oxford Township that had been farmed by the Kavanagh family for 70 years before being purchased by the county for $523,800. 

In June, a 90-acre portion of film director M. Night Shyamalan's 218-acre Kirkwood Farm in Willistown was sold to the Willistown Conservation Trust for preservation. The group said it will open the land to the public later this year after adding walking trails and planting native wildflowers. It had been owned and operated by descendants of oil magnate William Rockefeller Jr. for more than 100 years before it was sold to Shyamalan earlier this year. 

Last fall, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources created a new state park in Chester County that abuts Pennsylvania's border with Maryland. Big Elk Creek State Park, which covers 1,712 acres, features 3.5 miles of Elk Creek, a tributary of Elk River and the Chesapeake Bay. It was one of three state parks established under former Gov. Tom Wolf's $45 million investment in conservation. 

Last summer, a 15-acre farm in Chester County near the Delaware border was permanently preserved to protect a major source of drinking water for New Castle County, Delaware. The property, located in the Landenberg section of Franklin Township, sits beside 600 feet of a tributary to East Branch White Clay Creek, which joins the Christiana River in Wilmington and provides drinking water to nearby residents.