(5/30) The Board of Directors for Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, located in Hamiltonban Township, are currently in the process of negotiating a partnership with the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and The Conservation Fund to transfer 574 acres to become part of the Michaux State Forest. The goal to raise $1 million has all but been met.
Negotiations began at the beginning of 2015, but this process is far from being over, as there is an estimated two more years of work still to come.
In 2008, Strawberry Hillís ability to subsidize the educational programs and maintain the Preserve was reduced with the onset of the "Great Recession." Significant losses to the Foundationís assets occurred. Since then, the Foundationís assets have never been recovered. Increased operational and facility management costs, coupled with financial pressures, have put a strain
on the resources the Foundation possesses to provide affordable quality education and protect the watershed. Without additional direct funding support, the Foundation, the Preserve, and educational programs may soon cease to exist. In fact, every year, Strawberry Hill begins with a $60,000 to $70,000 operating deficit that must be raised through donations from the community or otherwise drawn
from the investments in order to keep the Preserve open and operating.
In order to continue servicing the community through environmental education, Strawberry Hill had to consider the land transfer as a viable means to procure monies. Initially, the Board made a grant request of $987,500 to DCNR, which was approved. However, DCNR only granted $837,000 for the project, which was only about 85% of the requested amount. This left a balance of
$163,000 to be raised, plus an additional $100,000 in project costs (legal fees, land survey etc.)
Through further negotiations, time and investments, Strawberry Hill was able to secure $100,000 from a private corporation, but continued looking for support from the Adams County Commissioners, local state representatives, Hamiltonban Township, Adams County Community Foundation, local businesses, and the Adams County community.
As stated before, the initial goal was to raise $1 million to support the educational programming and continue to provide community access to the Preserve. This transaction would provide the Foundation roughly $1.5 million in cash investments to support the operations annually and will allow the principal investments to grow in the future. The Foundation more recently
received $188,000 from DCNR and pending the approval of CFA grant the grand total raised thus far will be $1.2 million.
Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve was founded in the 1960ís by Hans and Frances Froelicher, who initially began efforts to clean up and protect the Swamp Creek Watershed. In 1986, The Strawberry Hill Foundation, Inc. was created as a charitable non-profit with the primary mission to provide environmental education to the surrounding area and protect the Swamp Creek
Watershed. The Nature Preserve and Environmental Education Center lie at the heart of this mission, as the mission has always been to provide environmental education for the community, as originally wished by co-founder Frances.
However, Strawberry Hill is also in the process of reworking their mission statement to open up future avenues, further allowing the Preserve to serve as a gathering point for access to the southern part of the South Mountain Range via the Michaux State Forest. The proposed new mission statement is "Strawberry Hill Foundation fosters educational activities that connect our
community with the cultural and natural resources of the South Mountain Region." The Board is currently in the process of working through this change, so official approval has yet to be made.
Read other articles about Fairfield