The Lower Merion Conservancy
Much of Lower Merion’s unique character is defined by its historic buildings, large trees and green spaces. The Lower Merion Conservancy has long recognized the importance of protecting open space to conserve the environment and protect the character of the community.
Since 1995, the Conservancy has been actively working with private property owners to secure conservation easements that permanently protect land from subdivision and development. The Conservancy currently holds 20 conservation easements, protecting more than 180 acres of land in Lower Merion and Radnor Townships.
The Conservancy also works closely with the Township of Lower Merion to promote strong preservation practices that keep Lower Merion green and protect its natural resources.
In 1990, the Township adopted an Open Space Preservation District Ordinance to help curb urban sprawl by encouraging innovation in residential development on large parcels of land, providing an effective means of responding to site conditions for preservation of natural and historic resources, and for providing open space preservation and enhancement of natural resources. Properties that are zoned residential and are 5 acres and larger in size are subject to the Ordinance.
An inventory of open spaces can be found on the Township’s website where they are organized by temporary or permanently protected lands.
Property owners conserve land for a number of reasons – to preserve it for wildlife and outdoor recreation; to prevent flooding, absorb water and air pollution; or to preserve scenic views and improve the quality of life in communities. Conserving open space can yield substantial economic, environmental, and health benefits for people.
The conservation easement is a tool to help landowners and conservation organizations, like the Lower Merion Conservancy, work in partnership to achieve conservation objectives. The objectives, and the means for achieving those objectives, will vary depending on the character of the particular property, the goals of the conservation organization, and the needs of the landowners. When a property owner conveys a conservation easement to a charitable organization, the transfer may entitle the landowner to substantial federal tax benefits.
This map below highlights most of the protected open space areas in Lower Merion Township. Some of the larger protected areas include Rolling Hill Park (103 acres), the Stoneleigh Estate (40 acres), Idlewild Farm (21 acres), Saunders Woods (25 acres), and the Cynwyd Heritage Trail.
The map also includes the land that has been protected by the Open Space Preservation District Ordinance, which requires that development on properties over 5 acres leave at least 50% of the land un-developed. These “Preservation Areas” have specific maintenance requirements that are monitored every two years by the Conservancy.