Horseback Riding in Our Pennsylvania Preserve
Did you know that there are some 8 miles of trails within the Preserve, where horses are allowed? The pictures shown above were in taken by Shawn Carren along the Edwin Leid Trail and the PennDel Trails.
"We as a community, are very fortunate to have this vast amount of land designated as a “Preserve” in our immediate area. It will take a lot of community involvement and state support to manage, enhance, sustain, and preserve these tracts of land for now and the future. We will need your help! Please consider volunteering some time and resources to support the “Friends” group and help us accomplish our preservation goals.”
Scotty Crowder, Chairman, “Friends” of PA White Clay Creek Preserve, 2019
Skunk Cabbage along PennDel trail. Photo by Ellen Scavia
Park verses Preserve
By Ellen Scavia
Did you know that the only ‘preserve’ we have in our entire PA State Park system, is the White Clay Creek Preserve? What’s the difference? Basically, parks are managed for people while preserves are intended for nature. The parks that have Conservation Area in their name, are similar in nature, in that they are used for low density, low impact recreation with very limited infrastructure.
How Did This Occur?
In the 1950s, it was believed that New Castle County, Delaware, was going to experience increased population growth and a consequent need for new water resources. To meet this projected need, it was proposed that White Clay Creek be dammed north of Newark, backing its waters to form a reservoir that would extend into Pennsylvania as far as the southern end of the town of Landenberg. The DuPont Company would be a large user of this new water resource, so they began buying the land along the creek up to the 175-foot contour line.
For various reasons, the problems engendered by this project caused its entire cancellation, leaving the DuPont Company with over 1,500 acres of land for which it had no use. After consultation with the Federal government and several research studies, the DuPont Company offered 1,234 acres to Pennsylvania and 486 acres to Delaware. Both states accepted this offer, and on October 16, 1984, these lands were transferred to the new owners. The DuPont Company was concerned that the land being transferred by them to Pennsylvania and Delaware be kept as “untouched” as possible during the planning and future management by both states.
Sign on PennDel Trail Photo by Scotty Crowder
Sign on PennDel trail Photo by Scotty Crowder
Why a Preserve not a Park?
Because of an extremely sensitive natural balance in the area brought about by rapid urban encroachment, an equally sensitive political climate, plus the existence of several endangered plant and animal species, it was deemed unwise to develop the new acquisition along the lines of conventional State Park recreation facilities. What was to be White Clay Creek State Park became White Clay Creek Preserve, the first Preserve in the Bureau of State Parks, by act of legislature on June 26, 1984. Development for recreational purposes within the Preserve will be limited to hiking trails and a few stone surfaced parking lots of small size. As part of this concern, the agreement included the formation of the Bi-State Advisory Council to consist of six members each from Pennsylvania and Delaware. The council was to represent, as far as was practicable, a broad cross section of public and environmental interests. The council was to meet on a semi-annual basis, or when circumstance required, to help choose the wisest future paths in the development of the bi-state facilities. When DCNR was formed in 1995, the bi-state advisory council was disbanded and a Friends Group was developed to help assist with the park.
How Do We Care for a Preserve?
White Clay Creek Preserve, PA, (as distinct from the State Park in DE) is located predominately in London Britain Township, with 3.5 acres in New Garden Township. White Clay Creek Preserve is a unique, natural environment nestled, almost hidden, among the five million people living in the northeast urban corridor of the United States. It is approximately 4,755 acres (1,255 acres in Pennsylvania) of wilderness found in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, where the Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland boundaries meet. Approximately 8 miles (5.5 miles in Pennsylvania) of rippling White Clay Creek wind quietly through a variety of landscapes ranging from marshy lowland meadows to mature beech forests.
Middle Branch of White Clay Creek. Photo by Ellen Scavia
White Clay Creek Preserve is being managed for low-intensity recreation only. This is necessary because of the declared purpose of the Preserve at its dedication, but more importantly for the protection of natural habitat and biodiversity. Activities allowed in the Preserve include; hiking, birding, fishing and some trails allow horse back and bicycle riding. Hunting is also selectively allowed in the Preserve to prevent the overpopulation of deer. Trail maintenance is performed by volunteers, with some 330 volunteer hours logged in 2018. The Wilmington Trail Club and Trail Dawgs help to keep the trails open. Once a year volunteers tackle the removal of invasive species in small patches of the preserve. Volunteers also staff open houses on Sunday afternoons so the public may visit the small museum housed in the London Tract meeting house and learn about the native species of wildlife through its taxidermy collections. Bird life in the preserve has benefited from a group of volunteers who install and monitor birdhouses for Bluebird populations. Grants for replacement trees, Boy Scout projects, fish stocking efforts by the Fly Fishermen club, etc. have all enhanced the environment within the Preserve.
Bald Eagle Photo by Wayne Hunter
What’s Next for the Preserve?
The Preserve continues to grow. In 2009, The Conservation Fund (TCF) and the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources set out to protect 1,718 acres owned by George Strawbridge. It purchased 735 acres that year which were transferred to the White Clay Creek Preserve. In 2017, the TCF purchased the remaining 982 acres of the property, which will also be managed as part of the White Clay Creek Preserve. This newly protected land connects with the 5,565-acre Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area to the south in MD. The block of land creates a continuous natural area of more than 7,000 acres. The preservation of this land for the benefit of all will require stepped up volunteerism and creative partnerships to fund maintenance efforts.
Sunset Photo by Wayne Hunter
Thanks to Ryan Dysinger, Assistant Director of the Bureau of State Parks, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for factual input to this article.
What is it?
Hikers along the Mason Dixon trail have asked.
Pictured above is a pulley system used to suspend a current meter into White Clay Creek. The meter which records flow velocity is the property of the USGS (United States Geological Service). Flow meters can also be used by wading into the water or hanging them off of bridges. The measurements obtained can be used as data in computer models to study the impact of rain events and groundwater discharge to the creek. Water quantity data coupled with water quality data can be used to calculate pollutant loads within the creek.
Information provided by Dr. Leon Carl, USGS
The White Clay Creek Preserve (PA) beavers have been active this fall busily repairing dams and harvesting food in preparation for winter. The relentless work of this marvelous mammal can be seen along the PennDel and the Mason Dixon trails. They provide immense ecological value to the preserve. Beaver built ponds, marshes or wet meadows provide habitat and ensure biodiversity within our preserve. From mink to mergansers, wood frogs to warblers, there is hardly a creature in nature that does not benefit and seek sustenance from the work of these ecosystem engineers. Specific benefits include:
- In Nevada, drought prone areas find beaver ponds are raising the groundwater water tables by allowing recharge.
- In Washington, beaver ponds are compensating for the decline of snowpack in the region.
- Locally, by slowing down the velocity of runoff, beaver dams allow agricultural pollutants to settle out before reaching the creek. This function is similar to human made storm water retention/detention basins.
To learn more about beavers read Ben Goldfarb's "Eager; The surprising secret life of beavers and why they matter." Right now, beavers are quietly nestled inside their mud-packed lodges. White Clay Creek Preserve is a perfect place for them.
Fall Hike 2018
Thank you Nicole O'Brian for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm on our October 21 st hike along the White Clay Creek Preserve. For more information on the topic of communication among trees you can read "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben. If you would like to followup on Nicole's recommendations and have your backyard certified as wildlife friendly, contact:
Art In the Preserve
Thank you to all that came out to our Art in the Preserve event on October 20th 2018. The paintings of Kathy Ruck, Carol Gray, Donna Teleis, Karen Kuhrt and Steve Burke were enjoyed by all. The Music by Fish Castle was an added treat. Here are some highlights:
Join us at the White Clay Creek Preserve, London Tract Meeting House this Sunday, October 21st at 3:00 PM for a guided hike by Nicole O'Brien! Nicole is a Wildlife Ecology and Conservation major at the University of Delaware.
She will be delving deep into the complexity and beauty of underground root systems and talking about the above-ground trees and shrubs that these root systems support!
Enjoy learning about special and unique habitat types for different amphibians and mammals and learn how to enhance forest structure in your own backyard! Ages 12+.
Sunday, October 21st, 3 PM
Storm Damage: August 2018
Have you hiked the PennDel trail lately? A recent storm blew out a culvert that is now in the creek!
White Clay Creek Preserve's Bluebird Box and Monitoring Volunteers
For more than a decade, a small group of dedicated volunteers have worked within White Clay Creek Preserve to build, maintain and monitor boxes for bluebirds and other cavity-nesting bird species. Special thanks to the current volunteers: Lorie Baker, Pam Orris, Donald Bayard, Judy Bayard, Erin Baker, Ryan Baker.
They are part of a state-wide program sponsored by the Bureau of State Parks. In total, 44 state parks monitored 1737 boxes that fledged a total of 7,069 birds.
There are 44 4x4" wooden boxes designed to attract Eastern bluebirds spread throughout White Clay Creek Preserve. In 2017 18 of the boxes were used by the bluebirds. Over the season 24 nests were built, 115 eggs were laid with 102 hatching. Eighty-seven bluebirds fledged. Chickadees made nests in 5 of the boxes, where 13 eggs were laid; all hatched and fledged. Also swallows used 24 of the boxes with 73 swallows fledging and house wrens used 4 boxes, fledging 19.
Recently shop students at Unionville High School created some screech owl boxes that were placed at White Clay Creek Preserve by the Bluebird committee. Thanks Unionville High School!
Annual Meeting moved to Nov. 13
Due to a scheduling conflict the November 6 meeting of the Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve is rescheduled to Monday, Nov. 13, 7:30 pm, at the London Tract Meeting House.
Art in the Preserve -- Oct. 7
We had a great time at Art in the Preserve. Nine artists used the day to sketch and paint in White Clay Creek Preserve. Thanks to all who came to meet the artists, see their work in the London Tract Meeting House. Thanks to all the volunteers that made this a great addition to our programs.
Update on Stone Wall Restoration
Phase One of the 2017 Stone Wall Restoration project is complete as the section of the wall parallel to the Meeting House's entrance is just about complete. It looks really great! John Stoltzfus, our stone mason, worked on the wall during two-weeks in July. He plans to come back in late fall, once the shrubbery dies back, to complete the wall restoration at the far edge of the property. Special thanks to all our donors who supported the project.
Charles Bailey Bridge Project
Special thanks to our Trail Volunteers for the great new bridge on the Charles Bailey Trail. In less than a month the bridge went from an abandoned railroad abutment to a sturdy bridge rated for pedestrians and equestrians. Nine volunteers in 127 hours completed the span. Special thanks to Gary Kirk and Mike Ott for designing the bridge and following it through the approval process. Thank you to the Santoro family for allow our team to stage the bridge at your farm. Funding for the bridge was provided by White Clay Creek Preserve. Check out the Photo Gallery with pictures of the entire process.
FWCCP's Stone Wall Renovation Project
The Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve has committed to completing the restoration of the stone wall around the historic London Tract Meeting House. Located at the White Clay Creek Preserve’s main entrance, the Meeting House and stone wall are the face of the Preserve and one of the first things visitors see as they come to the area. The crumbling walls do not make a great impression.
The Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve is supporting the Pennsylvania State Parks system in adopting this project. Our goal is to raise $13,000 this year. Stoltzfus Masonry will complete the restoration project as funds become available. The lower wall-- starting at the fence gap, where the previous restoration ended and continuing north to the termination point will be done first. The second wall along the back of the property will be done later this year. The third hidden wall will not be restored at this time.
Donations are being accepted online on a special capital campaign page of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forest Foundation's website. (Click Here) Or, if you prefer, mail a check, made payable to Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve to 517-A Sharpless Road, Landenberg, PA 19350. (Please place Stone Wall Restoration in the comment line)
Your help and generosity is greatly appreciated.
The Historic Haunting Returns to White Clay Creek Preserve
All are invited to visit the London Tract Meeting House on Saturday, October 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm for the Return of the Historic Haunting. On a tour around the London Tract Cemetery you will meet a few of the interesting souls from times gone by. Take a walk down the Haunted Trail for some spine-tingling fun. The woods are a different place at night; join our ranger on a short night hike. The Meeting House is open with refreshments, music, and more. Sit a spell at the fire pit with a campfire and campfire songs.
The Haunting is free, but donations to offset the cost are greatly accepted. Rain date is Sunday, Oct. 16, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Scenes from the 2014 Historic Haunting
Tri-State Marker Trail South opened -- Entire Trail Complete!
At the end of September 2015, the southern portion of the Tri-State Trail was completed and opened to the public. The entire 4-mile looping Tri-State Marker Trail can now be accessed from the Arc Corner Parking Lot (on Arc Corner Road, off Chambers Rock Road in Landenberg) or from the White Clay Creek State Park's Nature Center (off Hopkins Road, in Newark Delaware). The trail traverses through both White Clay Creek Preserve in Pennsylvania and White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware.
Special thanks to the 64 different volunteers that worked more than 2600 hours in building the trail in addition to the work by the Delaware State Parks Trail Crew and five Eagle Scout Projects. The five Eagle Scout Projects involved an additional 117 volunteers that worked more than 900 hours.
The trail was funded with a series of grants. Thanks to the Dockstaeder Foundation, the American Hiking Society, the Wilmington Trail Club, the White Clay Watershed Association, the Mushroom Festival, PA DCNR, Friends of White Clay Creek State Park, Shone Lumber and a few anonymous donors. The cost for bridge materials and equipment rental for completion of the 3 mile portion of the Trail in Pennsylvania was approximately $21,000. The trail was completed ahead of schedule without any safety or environmental incidents, and well below budget.
The Mason-Dixon Trail System received permission from PA DCNR to reroute the Mason-Dixon Trail onto the Tri-State Marker Trail. The Tri-State Marker will be the only actual Mason Dixon marker along the 194-mile Mason Dixon Trail.
Tri-State Marker Trail Dedication and Mason Dixon 250th Anniversary Celebration great success
Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve in partnership with the Wilmington Trail Club organized a fantastic National Trails Day event on June 6. Hundreds turned out to walk the new Tri-State Marker Trail and celebrate the day 250 years ago that Mason Dixon marked the northeast corner of Maryland and started their westward survey. Because of the new Tri-State Marker Trail there is now public access to this historical marker, the first time since it was set 250 years ago.
We shared the new Tri-State Marker Trail with Sec. Cindy Dunn, Pennsylvania's Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and George Asimos, president of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.
PA State Representative John Lawrence presented the Friends with a House Resolution declaring June 6 White Clay Creek Preserve Day in Pennsylvania. DE State Representative Paul Baumbach presented a House Resolution declaring June 6 Mason Dixon Day in Delaware.
Many groups connected to the White Clay Creek set up "Discovery Stations" for people to learn more about the region along the White Clay Creek. Special thanks to the White Clay Creek State Park Nature Center, members of the Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve, the Wild and Scenic River program, Lyme Disease Association of Southeastern PA, and the White Clay Watershed Association for their participation.
The event was a celebration of the community responsible for the creation of the new Tri-State Marker Trail, from the planning and implementation of a sustainable trail, to the funding of the project, to all the volunteers who worked 1600+ hours to carve the actual trail. It was also a celebration of the importance of the Mason Dixon Survey.
Check out the photo gallery here.
White Clay Creek Preserve Celebrates 30 years!
On October 16, 1984 the DuPont Company officially signed the lands they owned (1350 acres in all) to the states of Pennsylvania and Delaware. This was the start of what we all enjoy as the White Clay Creek Preserve in Pennsylvania and the White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware. A big thank you to the individuals who for the past 50 years have fought to keep the lands along the banks of the White Clay Creek natural, and undeveloped for all to enjoy!
White Clay Creek's Plants of the Season's Handouts
Over the last year Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve offered a series of four seasonal hikes dedicated to learning about local plants. As part of the hike participants received a seasonal plant handout. All four handouts are available below to download.
Thank you April Schmitt for the hikes and sharing this valuable information with us all!
Friends of WCCP initiates an Adopt-A-Trail Program
Since the Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve will be responsible for maintaining the new Tri-State Trail and the trails on the east side of the Preserve, we are initiating a volunteer Adopt-A-Trail Program to adequately coordinate maintenance of the trails in the WCC Preserve. As part of the program, a maintenance network is in place consisting of Preserve maintenance staff and trained volunteers. They will work with the Adopt-A-Trail coordinator to respond to trail maintenance needs identified by our Adopt-A-Trail volunteers.
This program provides an excellent opportunity for trail users to get involved and contribute to improving the trail system in the Preserve. Adopt-A-Trail volunteers provide monthly monitoring and limited maintenance of assigned trails, including removal of litter and fallen branches and pruning of intruding vegetation (especially multi-flora rose). Volunteers also check trails after storms and high winds.
Conditions and specific problems, such as a fallen tree blocking the trail, are reported for follow-up. An Adopt-A-Trail Report is completed after each trail survey to provide the Preserve Maintenance Staff and the Adopt-A-Trail Coordinator with the status of the adopted trail. Reports of "no problems" are just as valuable as ones that uncover conditions needing attention.
You do not need to be an official Adopt-A-Trail volunteer to report maintenance problems on Preserve Trails. You can contact the Preserve Staff through the WCC Preserve's e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Nick Duca, Preserve Maintenance, and Mike Kutzmonich, WCC Preserve and Ridley Creek State Park Manager access the Preserve's e-mail account daily and can respond to maintenance issues. For emergencies or quicker response one can call the WCC Preserve number 610-274-2900 and/or the Ridley Creek State Park's phone number 610-892-3900. Ridley Creek has someone to answer the phones most of the day. For serious non-maintenance related emergencies the PA State Police Avondale Barracks number is 610-268-2022.
All new volunteers will receive a walk-through training session. Training in trail construction and maintenance techniques or comparable experience is required for any trail maintenance activity beyond clearing of litter and small branches, trail trimming, and submitting status reports. No new trail improvements or significant modifications should be performed without specific review and permission from the Preserve Staff.
Rick Phillips has agreed to serve as the Adopt-A-Trail coordinator. He will work closely with Preserve maintenance staff and the Preserve's rangers and manager to coordinate and discuss the needs addressed in trail reports, as well as coordinate volunteers for any major maintenance needs.
Adopt-A-Trail Segments include:
Penndel Trail: Parking Lot #1 to WCC Fiberglass Bridge
Penndel Trail: WCC Fiberglass Bridge to Middle Branch of WCC
Penndel Trail: Middle Branch of WCC to Delaware Border
Edwin Leid Trail:Good Hope Road to London Tract Road
Edwin Leid Trail: London Tract Road to Sharpless Road
Boundary Line: WCC Fiberglass Bridge to Yeatman Station Road
Boundary Line: Yeatman Station Road to Corner Ketch Road
Charles Bailey Trail: WCC Fiberglass Bridge to Yeatman Station Road
Charles Bailey Trail:Yeatman Station Road to Delaware Border
Vaughn's Trail: Lot 1 to Edwin Leid
Tri-State Trail: Arc Corner Road to Tri-State Marker
This is a great opportunity to give back to the fantastic trail system that we have the good fortune to have in our backyard. If you are interested in adopting one of the trails as an Adopt-A-Trail volunteer please e-mail our Coordinator, Rick Phillips( email@example.com).
Dorothy Miller Honored with Preservation Award
White Clay Creek Preserve and White Clay Creek State Park would not be
here today if it weren’t for Dorothy Miller. She’s dedicated thousands
upon thousands of hours for the past 50+ years in successfully
protecting this natural resource.
Dorothy came to the cause as an avid birder and lover of nature who spent much time along the banks of the White Clay Creek.
“It was a real grassroots effort,” said Miller in previous interviews about the processes of saving the White Clay Creek from being dammed. “We wanted to see the area preserved for its natural values. There was so much support in the whole region that politicians found our project desirable.”
As one of the founding members of a Delaware Coalition created to fight the building of the dam, she worked tirelessly to help elected officials, government employees, and the general public understand the importance of the White Clay Valley and to find a solution to keep the Creek free-flowing.
Eventually the Delaware Coalition merged with a similar Pennsylvania group to form the White Clay Watershed Association. This group was responsible for having DuPont’s holdings along the White Clay Creek donated as the Preserve and Park .
After the lands were preserved and donated, Dorothy continued to lend her talents through the Bi-State Citizen’s Advisory Council, which was tasked with working with Pennsylvania and Delaware park officials to turn the private lands into public spaces. According to Miller, when the Park and Preserve were designed, the focus was to spread out use along the entire area. “You can always find someplace to be alone,” said Miller.
The Park and Preserve we know today has much to do with the vision and efforts of Dorothy Miller. In 2009 she said, “We still work on this everyday. There is a lot going on. We are trying to prevent damage to the stream. We are always looking to acquire adjacent lands while the opportunity is still there. We are still fighting battles.”
To this day, she continues the work in her quiet, but steady way.
It was a Friend-Raiser event:
The First Annual TRIHUMPF Race a Great Success!
Saturday, May 18 was the perfect day for the Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve's first annual TriHumpf Race. Over 90 people participated in one of the runs -- the 4.5 mile, 8 mile, or the half-marathon to the Tri-State Marker.
Hunt Bartine, of both Trail Dawgs (our partner organization for this event) and FWCCP (Pa) says that at minimium the participants at the TRIHUMPF learned about what an amazing resource the White Clay Preserve is as they ran the trails. He thinks many even learned more about the mission of FWCCP (Pa), too.
Thanks to Hunt and the Trail Dawgs for organizing this event!
Friends leads CreekFest Hike to Tri-State Marker
Check out the other CreekFest 2013 photos under the photos tab!
Kalb Honored with 2013Preservation Award
In 1946 Jan Kalb pulled into the driveway of a farm on Whiskey Hill Road (now called Indiantown Road), just off Route 896 in Landenberg. She told her husband, “I want to live here the rest of my life.” Celebrating her 90 th birthday this year, Jan has made that dream come true, but it wasn't without a fight.
When the pristine beauty of the White Clay watershed was in jeopardy with a proposal to dam the White Clay Creek for a reservoir, Jan along with a handful of other local citizens from both Pennsylvania and Delaware fought it.
From the 1960s and 1970s, Jan, a mother of three, spent thousands of her own dollars and countless hours each year attending any meeting where the fate of the White Clay Creek was to be discussed. When she received a phone call she would drop everything and drive to Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Doylestown, wherever, to represent the White Clay Watershed Association's position on stopping the dam.
With the success of the citizens to stop the dam project, the land which had been acquired for the dam became the White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware and the White Clay Creek Preserve in Pennsylvania in 1984.
For the next 30 years Jan has been a presence in fighting for the protection of the area. She recently obtained a conservation easement on her farm, protecting it from development.
The Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve chose Jan as the first recipient of its Preservation Award, an award dedicated to recognizing the service of those who have contributed to preserving the Preserve. “We appreciate your involvement,” said Gary Schroeder, president of Friends of the White Clay Creek Preserve “The White Clay Creek Preserve is here because you were involved.”
2012 Preserve Fall Work Day
On September 29, Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve held its first Preserve Invasive Species and Dump Site Removal Day. About 25 Friends came out and helped with either invasive species removal or to help remove buried trash from a former dump site near the barn of the former Sharpless House. In one morning the dump site was cleared and bags and bags of invasive species were removed from the area.
Special thanks to April Schmitt for organizing this event.
At one of our early organization sessions, leaders of the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation and representatives from Pennsylvania State Parks talked to our Friends group. (L to R) Ken Lewis, Assistant Regional Park Manager for DCNR, Gary Schroeder, chairman, Friends of White Clay Creek Preserve (PA), Marci Mowrey, president, Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation, and Bill Forrey, Vice-President Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.