Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association Acquires 8-Acre Cheston Family Preserve in Whitpain Township

In June 2018, Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) purchased the 8.01 acre Cheston Family Preserve at Briar Hill. This property is located at 610 Lewis Lane in Whitpain Township adjacent to Briar Hill Preserve and Prophecy Creek Park. Acquisition of this property was made possible through a partnership with Montgomery County, Whitpain Township and generous individual donors. This tract of land is especially important because it protects even more of the Prophecy Creek Corridor. The Preserve and a temporary trail extension will officially open to the public at a celebration scheduled for September 12, 2018 at 6 pm.

The Cheston Family Preserve at Briar Hill is largely open meadow habitat with some woodlands and hedgerows.  There is also a small tributary to the Prophecy Creek that begins on the southwest corner of the property.  You can access this piece of the Briar Hill Preserve by entering the Briar Hill trail system at Prophecy Creek Park and connecting to a trail WVWA has installed on the property. Several species of turtles, American Bullfrogs, muskrats, and green herons call this Preserve home.

“This preservation reflects our long term commitment to protecting key natural areas in the Wissahickon watershed.  More than a decade ago, WVWA worked in partnership with Montgomery County, Whitpain Township and several local residents, to protect 100 acres along the Prophecy Creek – which runs into the Wissahickon – through a combination of land acquisition and conservation easements,” said Gail Farmer, WVWA Executive Director.  The acquired land became our Briar Hill Preserve, which sits adjacent to Whitpain Township’s Prophecy Creek Park. Farmer said, “The protection of these open spaces was part of a strategic prioritization of the Prophecy Creek Corridor – essentially the vegetative stream buffer along Prophecy Creek. In a recent analysis of more than a decade of water quality monitoring data from the Wissahickon and its tributaries, we found that the Prophecy Creek is the healthiest creek in the watershed.”

With the recent acquisition of the Cheston Family Preserve, there is now over 200 acres of protected open space in the Prophecy Creek Corridor. That number reflects the combined acreage of Briar Hill Preserve, Prophecy Creek Park and several easements. In the immediate vicinity you will also find WVWA’s Camp Woods, Armentrout Preserve and Willow Lake Farm.

The property was formerly part of the estate of James Cheston IV, a conservation supporter who helped WVWA to permanently protect the nearby Camp Woods Preserve two decades prior, and whose heirs helped make this acquisition possible. The preservation of the Cheston Family Preserve at Briar Hill was also made possible thanks to our funding partners, Montgomery County, Whitpain Township, and a small group of community members committed to seeing this property remain undeveloped in perpetuity. “By partnering with non-profits and philanthropists, Montgomery County is able to help preserve high quality natural areas that our residents cherish.  The Cheston Family Preserve along the Prophecy Creek plays an important role in achieving our shared goal of improving water quality in the Wissahickon Watershed and ultimately making trail connections to the Green Ribbon Trail,” said Valerie Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.

 “Preserving the Cheston property is yet another example of Whitpain Township collaboratively working with a partner organization, the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association, to protect open space and enhance our natural environment,” said Whitpain Township Board Chairman Adam Zucker. “Environmental stewardship is a key value for all of my fellow Supervisors and we will continue to seek out opportunities to protect, preserve, and enhance our natural resources.”

All members of the community are invited to join WVWA at Cheston Family Preserve for its opening on September 12, 2018 at 6 pm. This free program will include several speakers and a short, guided walk through the new Preserve. Fore more information and to RSVP visit wvwa.org/calendar.