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January 26, 2023

Former Chester County golf course to be converted into public park

The Loch Nairn Golf Club was purchased by New Garden Township last year for $1.425 million. The restaurant at the site will remain

Environment Parks
Loch Nairn Chester County Park Kate Raman/Natural Lands

The Loch Nairn Golf Club was built in 1979 in New Garden Township, Chester County. The course closed at the end of 2022 and will be preserved as a 106-acre public park with walking and cycling trails.

The site of the decades-old Loch Nairn Golf Club in Chester County will reopen next year as a 106-acre public park. 

New Garden Township purchased the property last summer from its longtime owners, who sought to conserve the land instead of selling it to developers.

The golf course, which was originally nine holes, was built in 1979 by former owner H.C. Smedley and his sons. Another nine holes later were built on adjacent farmland acquired by the Smedley family. Over the years, more than 700 trees were planted along the fairways. 

Chris Smedley, who most recently owned and managed the course, will retain ownership of the Farmstead restaurant on the park grounds.

"It's the family's sincere hope that the community will be able to continue to enjoy the property's beauty and tranquility in its new form as a community park," Smedley said. "Loch Nairn was a huge part of our lives. We look forward to this new chapter and will have a continued presence at our restaurant. We are proud to add the Loch Nairn property to our family's legacy of open space in the region."

Todd Sampsell, vice president of conservation for the nonprofit Natural Lands, said transforming the golf course into a public park likely prevented the construction of a 90-unit housing development.

"As the climate crisis intensifies, with rising temperatures and stronger storms, protecting open space is essential to improving climate resilience and reducing flooding," Sampsell said. "We applaud the Smedley family for choosing conservation, and to the many partners that provided financial support for this project."

The park will incorporate existing golf cart paths into several miles of walking and cycling trails. The site is currently open to visitors who want to walk there. 

Loch Nairn Golf Course finished out the 2022 golfing season after New Garden Township purchased the property. Golfing activities, including driving golf balls, will no longer be permitted at the site.

The Golf Association of Philadelphia described Loch Nairn as a challenging, shot-makers course with several water holes incorporated into the natural lowlands and waterways that pass through the farmland. The property includes a tributary to the White Clay Creek, which is a federally designated National Wild and Scenic River.

New Garden Township paid $1.425 million, plus transaction fees, to acquire the property. The township defrayed the cost with an $863,700 grant from the Chester County Preservation Partnership Program.

The township has hired the nearby Stroud Water Research Center and Natural Lands to create a master plan for the park. It will involve planting trees along the waterway. Native trees and shrubs likely will be introduced to replace the turf grass, preventing runoff from flooding nearby roads and basements. A parking lot will be constructed next year.

"The plans for Loch Nairn represent the very best in Chester County's focus on land preservation: a multiuse trail, reforesting, and conversion of areas to meadow," Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said in a joint statement. "This will be a place where residents and visitors to the area can enjoy a calming nature preserve that includes walking and cycling opportunities."