The Lancaster County Conservancy wants nature lovers to give the Tucquan Glen Nature Preserve a break.
In fact, conservancy officials want people to go elsewhere.
In a post at its Facebook site Tuesday, the conservancy said Tucquan Glen "has been experiencing a very high rate of use this spring and summer and it is impacting the health of the preserve and relationships with neighbors."
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"It's the most popular preserve," Fritz Schroeder, conservancy director of urban greening, said.
In a post at its website, the conservancy says the high rate of use is damaging the land and working against its stewardship mission to "carefully manage our lands for the health of the ecosystem, the enjoyment of the public and the benefit of Lancaster County."
It says the vegetation that is vital to soil stabilization and health is being compromised by overuse, adding this could result in erosion and damage to nearby streams.
Tucquan residents upset
But the environment isn't the only thing the conservancy is worried about. Its relationship with residents who live along the preserve also is a concern.
Martic Township supervisor Ted Irwin said Wednesday some of those residents have shared concerns over the traffic — both vehicles and foot — that visit the preserve.
Irwin said residents have complained about people parking their cars on private property as well as knocking on homeowners' doors asking to use the bathroom or phone.
Mike Burcin, conservancy CEO/COO and director of education, said the organization has taken steps to ease the amount of people that visit Tucquan Glen.
"We did cut back on the exposure to the property from organized groups, field trips, busloads of people that were utilizing the property," Burcin said. "And that was from an environmental concern.
"We're trying to be proactive and direct people to other preserves," he said.
The conservancy owns 38 preserves, but only 28 are currently open to the public.
Burcin said the conservancy owns more than 5,000 acres around the county, and it is constantly educating people to the options that exist there.
He said the conservancy assigns stewardship crew members to Tucquan to help with parking and to help interact with the neighbors. He said similar crews are assigned to all of the conservancy's preserves.
"We feel like it's important that our neighbors see that we are taking an interest in this and feel that it's partly our responsibility to help monitor people using the (Tucquan) preserve," he said.
"So (the stewardship crews) are out there engaging the visitors, giving them pamphlets, and if we see people are parked illegally or parked where they shouldn't be parked, then we engage those folks. We also work with the state police, (and) local law enforcement … to help manage the numbers."
While it is a worst-case scenario, the option of closing Tucquan Glen to the public is one Burcin said he hopes to avoid. The conservancy has never closed a preserve to the public.
"That's a last resort," he said. "We have had scenarios where on preserves we've had to close trails due to ... natural factors, weather-related factors or impact from visitors. So that has happened on preserves, it has happened at Tucquan."
In its "Tucquan Glen Overuse" post, the conservancy says it has been able to acquire several nature preserves within a few miles of Tucquan Glen that offer the same things people enjoy at that preserve, including Kelly's Run, Steinman Run and Trout Run.
The conservancy's hope is that people will visit those and its other preserves, which would allow Tucquan to heal while also appeasing residents who live there.
"We are concerned about the environmental impact on the stream, the stream banks, the trails and the wildlife," he said. "We also feel that we owe it to our neighbors in that area. Really, it all fits together."
More of the same
This isn't the first time the conservancy has been faced with concerns over Tucquan Glen.
The conservancy dealt with a similar situation in 2011 when Martic Township officials expressed concerns including "rowdy, disrespectful visitors" to the preserve and inadequate parking in a letter to then-conservancy president Ralph Goodno.
Related: Martic presses for Tucquan solutions
Irwin said residents went as far as to post signs at their homes. One sign read "No trespassing, restrooms, phones. Stay on conservancy ground. Please pick up trash and be quiet."
He pointed out that some residents were posting signs that said cars left on their properties would be towed. He said the signs violated township zoning regulations and residents did take them down, but that's how frustrated residents had become.
"We take very seriously our responsibility to protect land, to make it available to the public," Burcin said. "We have a great resource in the county with this protected land, and we also have to owe it to our neighbors to do whatever we can to support them.
"I just caution people to please be respectful of neighbors and property owners," he said.