17 ACRES PRESERVED FOR STUDENT ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER PLANNED IN SUBURBAN PHILADELPHIA ALONG COUNTY-DESIGNATED “AESTHETICALLY UNIQUE” COUNTRY ROAD.
Pottstown, PA, January 31, 2014 — A comprehensive agreement between Upper Pottsgrove Township, The SAVE Alliance Foundation, and the Hilsee Real Estate Partnership, has resulted in the permanent preservation of 15 heavily-wooded acres, along with two additional acres containing a historic farmhouse dating to the early 1800’s being saved for rehabilitation and development of a student environmental education center.
The land parcel, located at the intersection of Gilbertsville and Snyder Roads, was transferred to the Township on January 30, 2014. The announcement was made today by Elwood Taylor, President of the Board of Commissioners and acting Township Manager of Upper Pottsgrove Township, Ken Hamilton, Executive Director of The SAVE Alliance Foundation, and Todd Hilsee, President of the Hilsee Real Estate Partnership. Cooperative work has already begun on the new mission for the land now called the Althouse Arboretum in memory of the former property owner. Under the agreement, the house located on old Grandy Road will be donated to The SAVE Alliance Foundation and restored for the Foundation and Township use at no taxpayer expense.
Hilsee, a founding board member of The SAVE Alliance Foundation said, “My grandfather the late Rev. John Althouse purchased the land in the 1950’s with my grandmother Violet. This land is well known for containing rare species of old growth trees as well as flowering and fruit trees. My grandparents would be very happy today to know that the property will be preserved and used to help kids learn about nature.”
The SAVE (“Students Against Violating the Earth”) Alliance Foundation provides resources dedicated to the development of community environmental solutions through youth leadership. With a mission to forge connections between students and communities that promote environmental sustainability both locally and globally, the Foundation will utilize the house as its base of operations and, through cross-easement agreements with the Township, will use the land as an environmental education center, complete with trails, outdoor classrooms and nature education sites. The Foundation’s Executive Director Ken Hamilton, a national-award winning environmental science educator, was selected to run the new SAVE Alliance Foundation full time last December. “Upper Pottsgrove Township has had a very strong dedication to open space, and it made sense to partner with them to place our state-of-the-art environmental resource center there,” said Hamilton.
“The Hilsee property is directly between other large tracts of preserved open space in Upper Pottsgrove Township and allows us to complete one of the longest nature walking trails in the region. We started talking about saving this property almost 5 years ago, and now we have a ‘win win win’ for the community,” said Herbert C. Miller, Jr., a Township commissioner who has served on its Open Space and Historical committees since 1999.
Other key stakeholders include the Pennsylvania State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) which provided a $146,100 grant to the Township towards acquisition and pursuit of the environmental education/land preservation initiative. The funds were provided through the Community Conservation Partnerships Program administered by the DCNR from its Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund, Environmental Stewardship Fund, and from federal funding sources. The DCNR is committed to building community conservation partnerships with local governments and nonprofit organizations to protect critical natural areas and open space, develop greenways and trails, provide quality park, recreation and conservation opportunities, and improve the quality of life in Pennsylvania’s communities.
A remaining issue is resolution of a lawsuit seeking restoration of trees on a long stretch of roadway bordering the property. According to Hilsee, Metropolitan Edison, its parent company FirstEnergy, and its contractors Lewis Tree Service and Tamarack Forestry recklessly destroyed 189 trees in 2010, including old growth trees and flowering trees along Snyder Road—one of a handful of rare county roadways designated “Aesthetically Unique” by the Montgomery County Planning Commission. Hilsee is pursuing repair of the damage in Montgomery County Court. “I am obligated under the preservation agreement to restore the area to the best of my ability, and I will not rest until I have done all I can so that students and the community can appreciate the full beauty of an asset that will now be theirs for generations to come,” Hilsee said. “The irony is that the tree destruction and restoration will provide an important ‘teaching moment’ for environmental students,” Hamilton added.
* * *
SOURCE: The SAVE Alliance Foundation, Upper Pottsgrove Township, and The Hilsee Real Estate Partnership LP.