Planning to create a new nature preserve in northern Lancaster County, officials at the Lancaster Conservancy are in the process of acquiring 90 acres of forested land in Elizabeth Township.
At an auction last week, Conservancy officials agreed to pay $19,000 per acre for the land, outbidding other potential buyers.
The cost to purchase the land and conduct related conservation planning is expected to exceed $2 million, conservancy officials said Thursday afternoon, announcing the pending purchase.
Officials must pay for the land before the end of the year, according to conservancy president Phil Wenger, who said fundraising efforts are underway.
“At this point, our work has just begun. Now we must raise the funds necessary to acquire and then care for this tract forever,” Wenger said in a news release. “If we hadn’t bid, this property would have likely been lost to development as pressure for building lots increases.”
The conservancy preserves land by taking ownership of wild spaces to ensure that they will not be developed — a process that relies heavily on donations, either of land or public and private grant dollars, Wenger has said.
The forested land in Elizabeth Township, which is adjacent to the southern end of Speedwell Forge County Park, was considered a priority location for preservation, Wenger said in a later phone interview. He cited the area’s natural cover, water resources and proximity to the public park.
In fact, the conservancy has been working to preserve the area for more than a decade, said Kate Gonick, the organization’s senior vice president of land protection and its general counsel.
The space includes a stream that flows into the nearby Speedwell Forge Lake, officials said.
The conservancy’s move to preserve the area was celebrated by Tim Schaeffer, executive director of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
“This parcel is critical to protect and sustain water quality, aquatic resources, and recreational opportunities at Speedwell Forge Lake,” Schaeffer said. “It also complements ongoing and future habitat and watershed restoration and conservation in the Hammer Creek Watershed that will benefit the creek, the lake, the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay.”
Part of the preservation process will include the creation of a management plan, which officials said will “identify and outline the work needed to restore habitat and enhance biodiversity on the property, while also exploring opportunities for public recreation and community partnership.”
Wenger said he expects to partner with other local agencies, and with county leaders, while working on the project.
To date, the conservancy has protected more than 7,900 acres across 47 preserves in and around Lancaster County, according to the organization’s website.