In 1992, what was then the Kendal Corporation entered into an agreement with the Brandywine Conservancy that put permanent restrictions on the use of 62 acres of our land (including much of the Big Woods).

One of the activities of the Brandywine Conservancy, based in Chadds Ford, is to negotiate easements with landowners in the Brandywine watershed that will permanently prohibit development on existing natural lands. (The Conservancy also runs the Brandywine Museum of Art, four miles east of us on Route 1.) In this blog post, I will describe the basics of the easement between Kendal and the Conservancy.

The first thing to understand is the area covered by the easement. It encompasses most of what I think of as “the Big Woods,” plus a good bit of the central valley within the Crosslands campus and the woods northeast of, and uphill from, the Crosslands gardens. A surveyor’s map can be found in the Digital Archives (accessible from the home page of the kalresweb website), under “Building Kendal Across the Years”, then “Easements and Maps”. But that map is hard to relate to the familiar landmarks of Kendal and Crosslands, so I did a tracing of it and overlayed it on a Google Earth satellite photo, below.

The yellow outline shows the Brandywine Conservancy easement area. It occupies most of the land between the Kendal and Crosslands campuses, as well as a large part of the valley in the middle of the Crosslands campus.

The legal document describing the easement is also available from the digital archives (in the same location as the map), for those of you interested in the full detail. It is about 20 pages of legal text. Here, I will just summarize a few of its features which I judge to be particularly important:

  • Kendal (now KCC) continues to own the land. The Brandywine Conservancy has the right to inspect it to confirm that the requirements of the easement are being met.
  • If the land changes hands, the obligations set out in the easement are also incumbent on the new owner.
  • No commercial or industrial activities can be done within the easement. For the most part, no new buildings are allowed. There are restrictions on composting and the use of herbicides near streams, ponds, and wetlands.
  • No alteration of wetlands is permitted and no additional ponds can be created.
  • Spray irrigation is permitted, if it will not “cause adverse effects to surface or ground water quality, wildlife habitat, or native vegetation.”
  • Most cutting of native trees will be permitted only to remove those that are “fallen, dead, diseased, or dangerous”. Standing dead trees are to remain as wildlife shelters. However, thinning of the woods under a “woodlot management plan of selective cutting” would be permitted. The Conservancy would have to review and approve the plan. At one point, a plan for selective harvesting of trees to improve the woods was approved by Kendal and by the Conservancy, but it was never implemented.
  • The existing access road is explicitly permitted (so long as its impermeable surface doesn’t exceed 1% of the 62 acres). The two sheds at the Crosslands gardens and the spray field infrastructure are also explicitly allowed.
  • The easement also permits trail work, fences, and the construction of “accessory structures, including but not limited to garages and sheds.” The Conservancy gets to review and approve plans for any of these except most fences (which do not require review and approval).

There is much more in the easement document, but this should give you a general idea of the nature of the restrictions.

Personally, I’m glad the easement is in place. It will help ensure that the Big Woods will be enjoyed by future generations.