Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Marriage of Natural and Historic Preservation

Photo by Dulcie Flaharty
The Daniel Hiester house was built in 1757 and will be preserved as a result of this effort.

Blogger's Note: The following was submitted by Dulcie Flaharty of Montgomery County Lands Trust about the successful completion of a long sought-after protection project.

Montgomery County Lands Trust has announced the permanent protection of the 78-acre Rogers-Hiester property, a long sought-after landscape in Upper Salford and Marlborough Townships that is rich in both natural and historical resources.
Photo by Dulcie Flaharty
Ridge Valley Creek, one of two high-quality streams preserved.

The property is the gateway to the Unami Forest, one of the largest remaining intact forests in southeastern Pennsylvania, and is home to the 1757 Georgian-style Daniel Hiester House.

Plans for the property include restoration of the historically significant structure, the creation of a 75-acre park, and the future development of hiking trails that will connect the property to other regional trails and open space.

The group’s $1.6 million purchase of the property followed a 30-month campaign to raise the needed funds. A wide variety of public and private donors contributed to the effort, including Charles and Maureen Rogers, whose family had owned the property since 1929.

Upon purchase, the land was transferred to Upper Salford Township, which will maintain it as a publicly accessible park. MCLT will hold a conservation easement on the property that ensures it will be forever protected from development.

“This is a capstone project for Montgomery County Lands Trust’s two decades of work in the region,” said Dulcie Flaharty, MCLT’s executive director. “During a time when funds for open space are scarce, we are grateful to have partners recognize the significance of this project, one that combines protection of both natural and cultural gems.”

The property is located off Route 63 just south of Sumneytown. Its visual prominence, natural resources, rich history, and potential access to public trails and parkland make Rogers-Hiester one of the most significant acquisition projects in Montgomery County.

Photo by Dulcie Flaharty
Many of the original features of the Daniel Hiester house remain
untouched by subsequent restorations, making it a 'high priority'
for restoration in Montgomery County.
The 78-acre property contains diabase geology, prime agricultural soils, and the confluence of Montgomery County's only two high-quality streams: Unami Creek and Ridge Valley Creek.

A large portion of the property consists of mature woodlands that are part of the Unami Forest, a notable section of the nationally recognized Pennsylvania Highlands.

The land is ideally situated to serve as the linchpin for future connection to both Montgomery County's 3,400-acre Green Lane Park and the 19-mile Perkiomen Trail just west of the property.

With 50,000 users monthly, the Perkiomen Trail connects with the Schuylkill River Trail, linking Philadelphia to Pottsville.

The wooded property is a picturesque setting for a 255-year-old brick manse, originally the residence of Daniel Hiester, noted patriot and statesman.

Because it was never remodeled, the house is in remarkable condition, retaining exceptional, unaltered period features. The prominence of this estate was so significant that it was noted on the first official map of Pennsylvania in 1759.

Photo by Geoff Patton
The stairway of the Heister house. 
The rare combination of natural and historic resources elevates Rogers-Hiester landscape to a status of unprecedented importance, not only regionally but statewide.

Montgomery County Lands Trust was attracted to the project, recognizing that it had ranked for three decades as “highest priority” by the Montgomery County Parks and Heritage Services Department but had not yet been protected.

Over the course of several years, Montgomery County Lands Trust worked with property owners Charles and Maureen Rogers to develop a preservation strategy, which was complicated by the necessity of finding funding to protect both the land and the structures.

Funding partners brought substantial resources to the project, including: $678,000 from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $342,000 from Montgomery County’s Green Fields/Green Towns Open Space Program, $150,000 from the Open Space Institute, $20,000 from Upper Salford Township, and more than $60,000 in community support rallied by Montgomery County Lands Trust.
Photo by Dulcie Flaharty
Another view of the Hiester House. It was included on the very first
Colonial map of Pennsylvania.

“This property was a 'Critical Habitat' acquisition,” said Carolyn Wallis, natural resource program supervisor for DCNR. “The land has the highest conservation value in the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape. Two high-quality streams run through it, the diabase geology supports rare and unusual plants, and it is within the Unami Forest Important Bird Area as identified by the National Audubon Society. In other words, it is an exceptional place that needed desperately to be preserved.”

Photo by Dulcie Flaharty
In addition to Valley and Unami creek's the deal preserves a 'critical habitat in the Schuylkill Highlands.
As a nonprofit conservancy, Montgomery County Lands Trust works to preserve and connect the natural areas, farmland, and neighborhood green spaces which contribute to the quality of life, to a clean and abundant water supply, and to the health of the region’s economy.

Below is a video about the Hiester House made by Brian Bingaman of The Mercury's sister paper, The Reporter. (If the embed code did not work, click here to see the video.)

1 comment:

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