Natural Lands announced that owners of Crebilly Farm have signed an agreement of sale that opens a path for the permanent protection of the property.
The property in Chester County had been targeted for development by luxury home-builder Toll Brothers. After intense opposition Toll withdrew its plans.
The agreement will require $25 million in funding.
“We are very grateful to the Robinson family for their willingness to take this important step towards conservation of such a beautiful, historical, and ecologically important property,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “We are a long way from the finish line, but the key to any successful conservation project is a landowner who is willing to preserve their land.” Natural Lands is based in Media.
The Crebily Farms property is believed to have been at the edge of the key Battle of the Brandywine during the Revolutionary War. It’s about seven miles north of the Delaware state line and near First State
The conservation plan—which may take 18 months to two years to complete—combines publicly accessible open space and privately owned preserved land. The agreement of sale between Crebilly Farm’s owners and Westtown Township — which was unanimously approved by the Township’s Board of Supervisors this evening—makes way for the Township to purchase approximately 208 acres intended to become a passive-use township park.
A second agreement between Crebilly Farm’s owners and Natural Lands is expected to be finalized soon, according to a release. That deal will enable the land conservation non-profit to purchase up to four conservation easements on approximately 104 acres. The 100+ acres, which contain most of the property’s buildings and residences, will remain on the market to be purchased by private buyers. New owners would be subject to the terms of the conservation easements.
A conservation easement is a voluntary land protection agreement that permanently restricts development on a particular property. Subsequent heirs or owners of the land are legally required to comply with the terms of the agreement in perpetuity.
Late last year, the owners of Crebilly Farm reached out to Natural Lands to discuss possible conservation options. In December 2021, the Westtown Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire Natural Lands to apply on the Township’s behalf for federal, state, and county funding toward conservation of the farm.
Natural Lands and Westtown Township must secure approximately $25.5 million in grant funding for its purchase of the easements and to fund Westtown Township’s purchase of what will be the publicly accessible portion of Crebilly Farm.
“We are hopeful that we’ll be able to secure funding from a variety of federal, state, county, and municipal sources over the next couple of years,” said Oliver Bass. “However, it is likely that there will be a gap between available funds and the amount we need to raise. While a campaign is not yet underway, we anticipate that there will be an important role for the community—which has been so outspoken in its support of Crebilly’s preservation—to play in making up that gap.” Bass encourages the public to sign up for updates on the project at www.natlands.org/crebillyfarm.
Said Westtown Township Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Tom Foster, “Westtown has always been defined by its rural character, and Crebilly has long been our centerpiece. The next step in acquiring this beautiful property is probably the most important: financing the project. It is up to Westtown residents to make this deal happen.”
The first skirmishes of the Battle of Brandywine—the largest one-day conflict of the American Revolution— are believed to have taken place on the same rolling hills and woodlands on the morning of Sept. 11, 1777. American General Adam Stephen spotted Hessian troops marching across the farm from his lookout atop Sandy Hollow, where the main battle would take place. Accordiing to battle accounts, Stephen dispatched a party of soldiers to the farm to slow the Hessians’ advance towards the American position.