“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children,” says the Native American proverb trailing across the home page of the Heritage Conservancy. And that is exactly the focus of the community-based organization, to preserve and honor the past while protecting the region’s natural resources for future generations.
The Conservancy works to preserve significant open spaces, natural resources and buildings of historic value across Bucks and Montgomery Counties. To date, they have assisted property owners in preserving over 14,000 acres of open space, farmland, wildlife habitats and watershed areas. It has also designated over 600 historic structures on its Register of Historic Places, providing recognition to these sites for their historic and architectural significance to the region.
The Heritage Conservancy is nationally accredited, an endorsement given by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission to only about 12% of similar land trusts nationwide. Their work extends to help both private landowners and municipalities. They help to evaluate structures for historic value, do land use/site planning, and assist in thinking through land conservation issues. Municipalities benefit from the Conservancy’s expertise in developing strategies for repurposing older buildings, planning trails and outdoor spaces for residents, engaging in watershed conservation and the restoration and preserving of local historic spots.
Fittingly, the Conservancy’s offices are located in the beautifully restored Aldie Mansion in Doylestown. Built in 1927 by William Mercer, brother to the famous tile maker, the home features decorative brickwork, antique tiles, unique garden ornaments and stone gargoyles. The home is also a much sought after venue for weddings throughout the year.
The conservancy also maintains several environmental conservation projects which sustain endangered wildlife species and protect their habitats. For example, the Amphibian Project provides safe passage across a busy roadway for amphibians that live in the Quakertown Swamp. Frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians leave the swamp to breed in small pools on the other side of the road. During peak crossing times, volunteers guide the little creatures to safety, ensuring species survival.
Other projects include conservation efforts at the Durham Mine Bat Hibernaculuman. The bat project seeks to protect the at-risk bat population by providing additional safe alternative habitats for the bats. The Durham Mine has shown evidence of a fungal disease that attacks bat populations. Scientists are monitoring species counts and working to introduce treatments. Additionally, the restoration and care of Bristol Marsh, will preserve this unique and fragile wetland ecosystem, a rarity in Pennsylvania.
Another very popular initiative of the Conservancy are two road trips created for visiting the historic barns of Bucks County. “Barn Voyages” for Upper Bucks and Central Bucks regions feature about 15-20 barns, each selected for their architectural or historic interest. Several of the barns date back to the American
Revolution. The tour is a self-guided driving tour and is available with turn-by-turn directions by clicking here.
Support the Work
There are several ways to support the work of the Heritage Conservancy. Annual memberships are available at a variety of support levels for both individuals and businesses. Memberships also entitle you to discounts on events throughout the year. Finally, volunteer to assist Conservancy staff in monitoring properties or working on stewardship projects. Visit the volunteer page here to discover other ways to help.
by Betsy Natter