Monday, November 10, 2014

First State National Monument

Sometimes the good guys win.

Near home, my favorite place for a short hike is the Woodlawn Tract, a beautiful 1,100 acre wooded area along the Brandywine River with a few scattered horse farms. Is is bordered on the south by Brandywine Creek State Park, and stretches a little ways into Pennsylvania near Chadds Ford.
Wood lots and farmland

My understanding is that while the Woodlawn Trust (the owners of the property) would seem to be a conservation/wildlife preservation entity, it isn't; it is a real estate holding trust.
Grace hiking the National Monument (who knew?)

The big "uh oh!" came a few years back when a proposal was put forth for a developer to buy a chunk of the Woodlawn Tract and put in 300+ new houses. This of course immediately raised a public outcry, a very visible and active "Save the Valley" campaign, and all the related furor and distress.

Then things got quiet. I figured that things had devolved into a legal battle and/or negotiations over what could and couldn't be done; something likely to take years.
First State Natl Monument and BCSP

Just recently, by accident, I found out why the furor died down (and I can't believe I didn't know this sooner!!). A good encapsulation of the story can be found here, which I will summarize. The short version is that what used to be the Woodlawn Tract is now a national park service unit as part of the First State National Monument.

Apparently, as early as 2011, the Woodlawn Tract, deemed to be in jeopardy, was added to a bill in Congress that would link it to several other historic sites within the state, and be put under the protection of the National Park Service. That bill failed to pass.

A $20 million dollar donation to The Conservation Fund allowed the Woodlawn Tract to be purchased with the intent to include it in a park once it became available for donation at the end of 2012. A new bill was introduced, stalled again, and was in danger of failing (and The Conservation Fund was going to lose rights to the land apparently). With the clock ticking, President Obama (with urging from Delaware's Vice President Biden I'm sure...) signed the bill into law under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013, and created the First State National Monument, including the donation of the 1,100 Woodlawn acres to the government, where they reside under the protection of the National Park Service.

It doesn't protect everything in the area, but it does protect woods, fields, farms, and dozens of miles of hiking trails in the path of suburban sprawl.

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