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Q&A: Land Conservancy’s Gwendolyn Lacy

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Gwen Lacy’s extended family owned the farm where she played as a child. When no one wanted to take over the land as her relatives aged, she watched as it was sold again and again, eventually becoming a residential subdivision. That spurred her interest in land conservation. Since 2004, the Chester County-based lawyer has been with the Land Conservancy, where she’s now executive director, overseeing its small staff and five preserves while advocating for preservation of land and historic sites. 

About the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County: The four tenets are land conservation, historic preservation, environmental education and stewardship. We do that through working with willing landowners through advocacy. A big part of what we do is bring threatened properties back from the brink. People will only really protect what they know and care about. 

A project that’s stuck with her: One that planted the seed for what we could do was the Stateline Woods Preserve, an 82-acre parcel that was slated for subdivision in Kennett Square. It went to litigation. We were talking to neighbors, raising the funding, seeing what we could do. After three years, we were able to turn it around and purchase the property. It was one of our first nature preserves, and it’s grown to over 400 acres. 

Best restaurant in the area: Sovana Bistro in Kennett Square is our local favorite. 

From Left: Stateline Woods Preserve, Sovana Bistro

Fun places to go: People’s Light in Malvern and the Market at Liberty Place [3] in Kennett Square. 

Favorite place to go with friends: We go on a hike or take the dogs out. My favorite spot is one we’re creating now: Chandler Mill Nature Preserve, which will open in 2017. 

Where she shops for food: Harvest Market in Hockessin, Del. It’s been locally owned for 30 years. 

Favorite area event: The Plantation Field Horse Trials [4] in Unionville. 

From Left: Market at Liberty Place, the Plantation Field Horse Trials.

Favorite thing to do on date night: Going into Philadelphia to [eat at] Russet, and then the symphony. I love the orchestra. 

Best chance of getting stuck in traffic: Routes 926 and 82, when I’m trying to avoid Route 1. 

If she had 30 minutes to herself, she would: Go for a run in the woods without my dog, just to shake it up. 

The most unique thing about this area: The diversity of people. We have farmers, equestrians, professionals, students—the whole gamut. 

Hopes for the future: The Route 1 corridor is the next area targeted for growth. How can this be smart growth? How can we make walkable communities? How can this be done so that we preserve the rural character—that we all recognize the economic benefits of preservation? 

An ongoing TLC project of note: We’ve been working on a historic bridge for 10 years. It was slated to be torn down and replaced with a two-lane [version], which would have widened the road. We got it onto the National Register, and it’s been preserved in perpetuity and is closed to vehicles. It will be a pedestrian part of a 10-mile loop.

Other ways we can help the environment: Simple things like getting out after a snowstorm and sledding or cross-country skiing—getting out onto the land. Planting native species in our own yard, understanding the stream you might pass over—even things as simple as bringing your own shopping bag or seeing if you can walk instead of driving.

How community members can get involved: We have a really great program, WHIPS, for 25- to 38-year-olds—to get young people who are now professionals to see how they can get involved with the land.