NEW HANOVER TOWNSHIP PA – A years-long pursuit to preserve 458 acres of “vulnerable open space in New Hanover and Upper Frederick townships” at Camp Laughing Waters, owned by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, successfully ended Thursday (Jan. 6, 2024).
Natural Lands, a Media PA-based land conservation organization, said it signed a protective conservation easement with the Girl Scouts. What Natural Lands called a “voluntary and permanent land protection agreement” is said to ensure that Camp Laughing Waters forever remains open space.
It restricts development of the property, but allows the Girl Scouts to continue to own the land and its use as a camp. The Girl Scouts will also be responsible for maintaining the grounds with a stipulated multi-million dollar investment.
The agreement also “introduces public access” using a two-mile county trail along the southern boundary of the property, from New Hanover Road to Fagleysville Road, Natural Lands stated in a media release. The trail will be an addition to the planned Montgomery County trail network that could cover more than 250 miles countywide.
The total easement cost came to $3.9 million, 147th House District state Rep. Donna Scheuren reported. Scheuren represents residents of both townships. The amount consists in part of combined contributions of $2.7 million from the county, $500,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, $480,733 from New Hanover Township, and $79,768 from Upper Frederick Township.
The remaining balance of more than $600,000 came from contributions by three organizations of The Girl Scouts, the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation, and the Redekop Family Foundation at Everence.
“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,” Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania CEO Kim E. Fraites-Dow acknowledged. Scheuren credited Fraites-Dow for “tireless dedication and unwavering resolve to see (the easement agreement) through to completion.”
‘Breathtakingly beautiful land’
Camp Laughing Waters has been operated by the Girl Scouts since the 1950s. Most of the property is wooded, offering essential habitat for songbirds that rely on dense forests, Natural Lands said. “The breathtakingly beautiful land includes two miles of Swamp Creek and its tributary, Minister Creek, with about 30 acres of ponds and wetlands,” it added.
Natural Lands also noted the property lies within the 9,383-acre Swamp Creek Conservation Landscape, which it called “one of the most unspoiled regions” in the county. It claimed the camp “is an important green space linking several hundred acres of adjacent open space,” including Bob Wayland Memorial Park, and Constable Charles Spellhoffer Memorial Park, both in Upper Frederick.
“Until now, Camp Laughing Waters was the largest unprotected land remaining in Montgomery County,” Natural Lands conservation project manager Kate Raman said. She described the “conservation success” as “a win for future generations of Girl Scouts, for wildlife, and for everyone” who benefits “from the fresh air, clean water, climate mitigation, and other ecological services this land provides.”
Top photo by Travels With The Post