By Bruce E. Mowday
Bruce Mowday is an award-winning author and newspaper reporter. He has authored more than 20 books on history, sports, business, and true crime.
The time has come for all interested parties to join together to reignite efforts to preserve and conserve Rock Hill Farm, considered to be one of the jewels of Willistown Township.
When the possible sale of the estate became public, many community members, elected officials, public-spirited organizations and even the Rock Hill Farm owner discussed preservation instead of unwanted development. The land was eventually sold to a developer. The community has constantly and loudly made its opposition known to elected officials. To date, despite several attempts, development plans have not been approved. The time has come for the developer to join in the conservation-minded public to reach agreement on a plan to preserve the land. Township officials would receive high praise from constituents if they took the lead such a preservation effort.
Changes in the construction market make the time ripe for the developer to look at
preservation as a viable option. Time is money. With construction costs escalating at a rapid rate, development costs are soaring. There is no start date determined, if there ever will be one. The costly clock continues to tick. Mortgage rates have been advancing, meaning potential buyers are decreasing. If a fair and reasonable price to the public and developer can be set, funding is possible. In the past, private individuals and organizations have indicated a willingness to contribute. Government programs are available with funds for preservation. Indeed, Pennsylvania, through the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, recently gave grants for projects. The DCNR assists local governments and recreation and conservation organizations with funding for projects related to parks, recreation and conservation. In September, DCNR announced $90 million in funding for 330 projects, the largest single investment in Pennsylvania recreation and conservation in the agency’s history. We Conserve PA called the funding a “historic investment.”
Recently the Department of Environmental Protection gave Chester County $425,000 to fund two nature preserve and restoration projects, including the Randolph Woods Nature Preserve, Malvern. The historic Crebilly Farm, more than 200 acres, is being preserved with the agreement of Westtown Township, taxpayers and the National Lands preservation organization. Most of the $20.8 million cost will be paid through grants. Part of the funds will go to purchase conservation
easements on more than 100 additional acres which will severely limit building on the property.
Rock Hill Farms is worthy of governmental investment!
Willistown doesn’t have to own the Rock Hill Farm property. The township can purchase a conservation easement that permanently protects the farm from development but allows the owner to keep farming.
At a public meeting, one neighbor said, “The proposed development plans for the
wonderful tract of land – more than 200 scenic acres – simply doesn’t comply with the heritage of Willistown.”
Now is the time for the developer, community and elected officials to conserve Rock Hill Farm.