Two hundred forty-six years after serving as a backdrop for the inception of our nation during George Washington’s retreat to Valley Forge during the Revolutionary War at the Battle of the Brandywine, Crebilly Farm has participated in another struggle. It fights a battle for its preservation.
Unlike the first go-around, this time the farm comes out the victor.
Several months ago, after a purchase by Toll Brothers real estate group threatened to turn the historic farm into a housing development, Chester County participated in a vote to preserve the landmark.
Coming out in favor of preservation by almost 2:1, Crebilly Farm was saved in principle, but not yet in practice. As of June 29, though, that salvation became reality as Natural Lands announced the finalization of four conservation easements on a 102-acre plot at Crebilly Farm.
A nonprofit land conservation organization based in Media, Natural Lands is Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest land conservation organization. To date, the member-supported endeavor has preserved more than 125,000 acres. Nearly five million individuals live within five miles of land under the organization’s protection.
The easements that Natural Lands helped produce are permanent, legal restrictions on development of the property. They will keep both Toll Brothers and any future real estate magnates from attempting to develop these lands again.
The finalization of these documents, though, only represents the conservation of about one-third of Crebilly Farm. They are the first half of a two-part plan to preserve the 308-acre property for public use.
Several years ago in 2017, this victory seemed improbable. Led by West Bradford activist Mindy Rhodes, the uphill battle felt never-ending.
“I’m not naïve to think we’ll stop [the Toll Brothers], but we’re not going to make it easy for them,” Rhodes told Main Line Today in 2017.
Real life is not a fairy tale, and most underdog stories end in defeat, but for Rhodes and two-thirds of Chester County voters, this victory is one they’ll savor.
“It took more than a village to get us to this place. A team of individuals worked positively, creatively, and cooperatively to save Crebilly Farm,” says David Robinson, one of the owners of Crebilly Farm.
Robinson continues, “It truly is an amazing endeavor of which everyone can be very proud. Five generations of Robinsons have lived at the farm and have fond memories made over the past 86 years. Now others will be able to create memories at Crebilly thanks to its permanent protection.”
Crebilly Farm certainly isn’t the only example of natural lands and countryside threatened around Pennsylvania, the United States and even the world. Chester County serves as an example of a smaller group achieving its goals through protest and democracy, the same principles our founding fathers fought to uphold on that very same battlefield nearly 250 years ago.
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