Photo provided by Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Natural Lands announced the permanent preservation of 458 acres of vulnerable open space in New Hanover and Upper Frederick Townships, Montgomery County. Camp Laughing Waters, which has been run as a camp by Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania since the 1950s, is now protected with a conservation easement. The Girls Scouts will continue as owners of the land, and the easement will ensure the camp remains open space so future generations can make memories there, too.
The land includes two miles of Swamp Creek and its tributary, Minister Creek, with about 30 acres of ponds and wetlands. Swamp Creek is the largest tributary to Perkiomen Creek, which flows to the Schuylkill River. Most of the property is wooded, offering essential habitat for myriad songbirds that rely on dense forest habitat. The property lies within the 9,383-acre Swamp Creek Conservation Landscape, one of the most unspoiled regions in Montgomery County. Camp Laughing Waters is an important greenspace linking several hundred acres of adjacent open space, including Upper Frederick Township’s Bob Wayland Memorial Park and Constable Charles Spellhoffer Memorial Park.
“Until now, Camp Laughing Waters was the largest unprotected land remaining in Montgomery County,” said Kate Raman, conservation project manager with Natural Lands. “The property’s permanent preservation has been a priority for decades. We are beyond thrilled to be able to celebrate this conservation success. It’s a win for future generations of Girl Scouts, for wildlife, and for everyone living in this region who will continue to benefit from the fresh air, clean water, climate mitigation, and other ecological services this land provides.”
The easement allows for the property’s current use as a Girl Scout camp and introduces public access via a two-mile county trail along the southern boundary of the property from New Hanover Road to Fagleysville Road. The trail will be an addition to the planned county trail network that will encompass a proposed 250+ miles throughout Montgomery County.
“Camp embraces the natural environment and allows girls to unplug from their busy lives and experience the outdoors,” said Kim E. Fraites-Dow, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. “We know that camp activities are dependent on the continued existence of open space and are proud to ensure the permanent protection of Camp Laughing Waters. This will benefit not just the Girl Scouts, but also the flora and fauna that call these lands home, the public who will enjoy the recreational trails, and residents downstream whose property and water supplies will be permanently protected. We are teaching our Girl Scouts by example the importance of protecting land for future generations.”
Camp Laughing Waters is among more than 9,300 acres of both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts land that Natural Lands has helped to conserve over the years. The Delaware County-based conservation non-profit holds conservation easements on more than 26,000 acres of privately held land across the region. This perpetual obligation requires annual monitoring and continued relationship management with more than 450 landowners.
“We say we are in the business of forever, and we take this responsibility very seriously,” said Oliver Bass, president of Natural Lands. “Natural Lands is proud to be a partner in saving such a significant swath of open space in Montgomery County.”
The conservation project received substantial support from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) Bureau of Recreation and Conservation, Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund. “The permanent preservation of Camp Laughing Waters is tremendous news for conservation in Montgomery County and for southeastern Pennsylvania,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We are proud to support this project and the expanded public access it will provide to trails in the Swamp Creek Conservation Landscape. Thank you to Natural Lands, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, and our partners at the municipal, county, and stakeholder level for supporting the preservation of this important greenspace.”
Photo provided by Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.
Significant additional financial support came from Montgomery County, New Hanover Township, Upper Frederick Township, the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation, and The Redekop Family Foundation at Everence.
“Montgomery County has a deep commitment to preserving our open spaces and trails for the sake of our residents, visitors, and the environment,” said Jamila H. Winder, chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “As part of the easement, Montgomery County will add an additional two miles to the Sunrise Trail and the Swamp Creek Greenway, a trail corridor identified on the County’s Primary Trail Network plan. The preservation of this property, combined with the public access afforded by the trail easement, makes this project a significant conservation outcome for both the county and the broader region.”
“New Hanover Township is proud to be a partner in the permanent preservation of 458 acres, ensuring that this vast expanse of land remains protected for future generations,” said Jamie Gwynn, New Hanover Township manager. “The acquisition of the easement not only reflects the Board of Supervisors’ dedication to environmental stewardship but also highlights its unwavering commitment to safeguarding natural resources and fostering sustainable development.”