Conservancy to preserve 1,100 acres along the Susquehanna

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

More than 1,000 acres of land along the Susquehanna River are set to be preserved as part of an ongoing conservation effort.

The Lancaster Conservancy announced this week that it's working to acquire nearly 1,100 acres in Hellam Township, where the Codorus Creek flows into the  river.

Once completed, the land will expand the Hellam Hills Conservation Area to over 2,100 acres of contiguous forests, preserving the last large wooded area along the Susquehanna between Harrisburg, York and Lancaster.

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“Unchecked development is putting pressure on our already fragmented natural landscape, particularly on wooded parcels of land," Conservancy President Phil Wenger said. "We are in a race against time to strategically set aside those natural places that are too critical for habitat, clean water, and public recreation to lose forever.”

The Conservancy says it's in the process of raising the $12 million needed for the project. The area was chosen for its critical water and forest resources as well as its proximity to Conservancy preserves within the Hellam Hills Conservation Area, including Hellam Hills and Wizard Ranch Nature Preserves. It is also close to York County's Rocky Ridge and John C. Rudy county parks and contains a long section of the Mason Dixon Trail System.

Since its founding in 1989, the Conservancy has preserved almost 8,300 acres across some 50 nature parks. The land in Hellam Township includes roughly 200 acres of farmland and 900 acres of forest.

The Conservancy is working with county, state and regional partners to raise the total funds, which will include the costs of acquisition as well as initial implementation of a management plan. Acquisition is expected in 2023. The lands are not yet open to the public, with the exception of the Mason Dixon Trail.

“The Conservancy has been working within this landscape for a number of years, and we were delighted and excited when the owners agreed to partner with us to protect what their families had worked so hard to acquire and manage,” Conservancy senior vice president of land protection and general counsel Kate Gonick said in a news release.

An online public meeting for the final presentation of the Hellam Hills Master Plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. For more information or to register to attend, visit the Conservancy's website.

This map shows the land being targeted for preservation in Hellam Township.

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.