Natural Lands announced the preservation of approximately 106 acres in New Garden Township, Chester County. The land, formerly the site of the Loch Nairn Golf Club, was purchased by the Township for use as a passive-recreation park, which is slated to open to the public in 2024. Conversion of the land from a golf course to a park will help improve water quality, absorb floodwaters, and offer additional environmental benefits.
Former owner H.C. Smedley built the golf course in 1979. His son, Christopher Smedley, will retain ownership of The Farmhouse, an acclaimed restaurant on the grounds.
“It’s the family’s sincere hope that the community will be able to continue to enjoy the property’s beauty and tranquility in its new form as a community park,” said Chris Smedley. “Loch Nairn was a huge part of our lives. We look forward to this new chapter and will have a continued presence at our restaurant.” Smedley added, “We are proud to add the Loch Nairn property to our family’s legacy of open space in the region.”
“Had this land not been purchased by New Garden Township, it’s very likely it would have become a 90-unit housing development,” said Todd Sampsell, vice president of conservation for Natural Lands. “As the climate crisis intensifies, with rising temperatures and stronger storms, protecting open space is essential to improving climate resilience and reducing flooding.” Added Sampsell, “We applaud the Smedley family for choosing conservation, and to the many partners that provided financial support for this project.”
The property, which is a short walk to Stroud Water Research Center’s (SWRC) headquarters, includes a tributary to White Clay Creek, which was federally designated a National Wild and Scenic River in 2000. New Garden Township has hired SWRC and Natural Lands to create a Master Plan for the newly designated park, which will focus on restoration work such as planting trees along the waterway to help absorb and slow water when the creek expands during storms. Additional recommendations will likely involve the installation of native trees and shrubs in place of extensive turf grass, which is as impermeable as paving when it comes to rainwater, creating runoff that floods nearby roads and basements. The planning process will kick off next month.
“Surrounded by farmland in adjoining townships, visitors to the park will be able to witness the cycle of agriculture throughout the year that keeps southern Chester County connected to its past. We want to thank the Smedley family for entrusting their legacy to the Township and we will maintain the natural beauty of the area that originally drew them here,” said David Unger, New Garden Township supervisor.
Unger noted that golfing activities—including driving golf balls—are no longer permitted at the site and referred people to the Township’s website for further information on their park regulations at https://ecode360.com/6209400.
The new park will offer visitors several miles of walking trails, many of which utilize existing golf cart paths. Currently, the site is open to visitors who can walk there. Construction of a parking lot is planned for 2024.
“The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is proud to support the conservation of the former Loch Nairn Golf Club site and we look forward to seeing it transform into a passive recreation park,” PA DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “New Garden Township’s vision for this property is an example of what the commitment to protecting land and water truly looks like. Thank you to all the partners who made this project possible.”
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell, and Michelle Kichline said, “The plans for Loch Nairn represent the very best in Chester County’s focus on land preservation: a multiuse trail, reforesting, and conversion of areas to meadow. This will be a place where residents and visitors to the area can enjoy a calming nature preserve that includes walking and cycling opportunities. The County is pleased to be a partner in funding this project.”
Support for this conservation project came from the Conservancy Grant Program, Commissioners of Chester County, Pennsylvania; New Garden Township; the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Bureau of Recreation and Conservation – Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund; the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation; and the White Clay Creek Wild and Scenic River Program.