A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY
To walk in the Laurels and take in its views offers the rare opportunity to be completely immersed in nature. It is a pristine property where meadows, forests, creeks, and vistas are protected, and the visitor can relax and enjoy the quiet sounds, the iconic views, and hidden paths for wandering.
The Conservancy has been presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand the Laurels Preserve for the first time since its founding in the 1980s. As such, the Conservancy has secured an agreement with the Roberts family to purchase 82 acres of SuRal Farm, formerly owned by Ralph and Suzanne Roberts, to formally incorporate this critically important and stunningly beautiful landscape into the Laurels Preserve. The sale is projected to close in May, giving the Conservancy and its dedicated supporters five months to make the dream of adding this dramatically beautiful landscape to the Laurels Preserve a reality.
The Laurels is a haven, a place of inspiration, of refection, of beauty and enjoyment…
This acquisition is emblematic of the Conservancy’s mission – to protect and conserve the land, water, natural, and cultural resources of the Brandywine-Christina watershed. Rarely does an opportunity arise to acquire a property that contains all matter of resources, let alone one that is adjacent to the Conservancy’s first and most beloved Preserve.
During their lifetimes, Ralph and Suzanne Roberts were conservation minded neighbors who understood their property’s unique value as part of the overall experience of visiting the Laurels. As such, they limited the amount of buildings onsite and elected not to fence in wide swaths of meadow. The Roberts also permitted access to two trails which traverse their property as visitors head uphill after crossing through the second, more northerly, covered bridge. These two trails meet at Fairview Road, allowing access from that point. It was an ideal partnership for the Brandywine Conservancy and the many visitors to the Laurels.
While Suzanne and Ralph are no longer our neighbors, their care in stewarding their land and generosity in allowing so many to enjoy it as part of the Laurels experience will be their legacy – one that the Brandywine Conservancy celebrates, appreciates, and will continue in perpetuity upon the successful completion of this acquisition.
We ask you to join us today in building a new legacy, one that forever protects the ecologically precious resources on SuRal Farm and provides access to these lands and waters for the thousands of members who visit every year. Thank you for your support in this critical effort.
The Brandywine would like to purchase 82 acres of the 145 acre property to limit further development by expanding the protected acreage of the Laurels for the following reasons:
- Open Space Preservation – the sweeping vistas, open meadows and fields, and forested areas of the property will remain open and without residences, farm structures, or fencing.
- Water Quality Improvement – the Laurels’ expanse of forest is home to the lower reaches of Buck Run and Doe Run, high quality tributaries to the west branch of the Brandywine Creek. SuRal Farm features a number of spring seeps that create a forested first order stream almost a half mile long, which adds high quality spring water to the Buck Run. Over a third of a mile of the southern border of SuRal is along the Buck Run riparian corridor.
- Ecological and Habitat Conservation – there are no fencing, gates, dams, or other man-made impediments between the Roberts property and the Laurels. The properties feel contiguous and united and the surrounding wildlife inhabit the land as one. We cannot risk future buyers fencing off large or small swaths of this landscape and fragmenting ecologically sensitive areas. Further development of SuRal Farm would impact existing wildlife habitats, current water quality, and prime breeding areas for important meadow bird species such as the Bobolink and Meadow Larks.
- Member Access and the Visitor Experience – subdivision and/or additional development at SuRal Farm would forever change the character, feeling, and usage of the Laurels due to its possible subdivision. Visitors would also lose access to the two current trails, known as the Hay Trail and Bridge Trail, which are currently utilized by a wide swath of the community including equestrians, carriagers, walkers, hikers, and bikers.
ABOUT THE LAURELS PRESERVE:
In the early 1980s, the largest privately owned, contiguous tract of land in Chester County, totaling 5,367 acres, was at risk of being developed. Owned by Buck & Doe Run Valley Farms, a subsidiary of the King Ranch Inc., a land and cattle company of Texas, this land was vitally important to the region’s environment. In addition to thousands of acres of open space, an estimated six million gallons of water flow daily from springs and streams that begin within the Laurels area and ultimately flow into the Brandywine River, which provides fresh drinking water for the City of Wilmington. The Brandywine Conservancy recognized the threats posed by the sale of the property and quickly stepped in to spearhead a massive preservation effort.
After three long years of intense land use planning, legal research, and investor solicitation, the Conservancy’s efforts resulted in the formation of an investment group, comprised mainly of local landowners which formed Buck and Doe Associates, L.P., and purchased the King Ranch property and preserved it with conservation easements.
The Laurels, a 771-acre parcel in the center of the property, was a critical impetus to protect the overall region. Recognized as a rare and unique landscape, it ultimately was divided off from the original land purchase and donated to the Brandywine Conservancy as its first Preserve in 1985.
Today, the Laurels Preserve is a vitally significant resource, serving thousands of visitors annually. The Preserve is home to a number of important ecological and historic resources and is located within one of the Brandywine Valley’s most critical watersheds. The Preserve includes 500 acres of diverse hardwood forest mainly comprised of native species including oak, beech, ash, and hickory. It is populated by diverse mammals and herpetofauna as well as over 160 species of birds—which has earned the Laurels an Audubon Important Bird Area designation.