550-acre Acquisition to Expand Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Today The Trust for Public Land, in cooperation with The National Park Service, The Conservation Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the William Penn Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Open Space Institute announced a significant purchase of land, which will soon result in the expansion of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

The acquisition of the property effectively ends long-standing plans for its development into a major complex of townhouses and residences, and will now provide the time needed to transfer it to the National Park Service.

“The Trust for Public Land is dedicated to protecting land for people to enjoy, so we are extremely pleased to have been able to help expand a highly visited natural treasure like the Delaware Water Gap,” said Greg Socha, senior project manager at The Trust for Public Land. “Without the unique collaboration that came together to get this done, protecting a property of this magnitude would not have been possible.”

Once added to the National Recreation Area, the 550-acre property in Shawnee, Pennsylvania, will provide both area residents and visitors to the Delaware Water Gap with new opportunities to hike, bike, hunt and experience the beauty of the Delaware River. The acquisition will also contribute to the protection of water quality in the Delaware River, the source of drinking water for more than 15,000,000 people.  The purchase was vital to protecting scenic views from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail and unique habitat, which is home for several rare species.  Furthermore, protection of the parcel, identified as a highly climate-resilient landscape, will create a haven for wildlife as the climate changes.

The purchase, which includes steep slopes above the Delaware River culminating at a 1,120-foot point known as Mosiers Knob—and visible from the Appalachian Trail—was led by The Trust for Public Land.  The Conservation Fund provided assistance in a variety of ways, including helping to secure funding to support the $4,330,000 purchase price.  A lead grant supporting the acquisition has been awarded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.  Additionally, the William Penn Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation are supporting the acquisition through grants administered by the Open Space Institute.

“This project is an iconic example of how local, state, federal, commercial, and non-profit agencies, organizations and land trusts can effectively collaborate and leverage funding to protect resources and enhance public enjoyment for future generations,” said Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John J. Donahue. “Local residents first identified the outstanding value of these lands and motivated the developer, the township, the county, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the United States to take action to preserve them. The NPS is looking forward to becoming the caretakers of this unique parcel once the transfer is complete and is especially grateful to the grantors who helped make this possible and to TPL who saw this through to the end,” he added.

The land was previously owned by Shawnee Development Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wyndham Worldwide, and was slated for a development that would have included more than 200 buildings along with roads and other infrastructure. Working with Wyndham Worldwide, The Trust for Public Land has now purchased and transferred the land to The Conservation Fund, which will care for it until the National Park Service is able to take permanent ownership. Once the property is donated to the National Park Service it will be added to the nearly 70,000-acre National Recreation Area and managed for the public’s use and enjoyment. 

“This landmark conservation effort builds upon The Conservation Fund’s ongoing partnership with the National Park Service to protect and enhance the exceptional natural resources, recreational assets and outdoor experiences provided at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area,” said Kyle Shenk, Pennsylvania Real Estate Representative with The Conservation Fund. “We look forward to transferring the property in the coming months.”

“Protecting land is not only about an interest in conservation, but the beauty and outdoor recreation that it provides also is in our self-interest. It makes our citizens healthier and attracts the residents and visitors who support our communities economically,” DCNR Acting Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “DCNR is proud to make an investment in this important addition to our national public lands.”

The Mosiers Knob property lies almost directly in the mid-section of the Delaware River’s 300-mile long corridor, along an area that is designated as a National Scenic River. Conservation of the property, and the creeks and streams within it that feed the River, will protect the drinking water of communities throughout the region, which is why the William Penn Foundation has targeted the Delaware watershed for conservation.

“Protecting this land is critical for downstream communities to ensure that they have clean water in the future,” said Andrew Johnson, Watershed Protection Program Director at the William Penn Foundation.  “This is exactly the outcome we intended with the development of the Delaware River Watershed Initiative, and we are pleased to see Initiative gaining so much positive momentum.”

“This property presented an exceptional win-win opportunity: not only is Mosiers Knob valuable to residents who rely on the Delaware River for drinking water, it is also ecologically resilient and will sustain wildlife into the future as the climate changes,” said Peter Howell, the Open Space Institute’s Executive Vice President of Capital & Research Programs. “The project demonstrates the best outcome of collaboration within the conservation community, to the benefit of us all. We are pleased to have played a role in ensuring the protection of this important tract for future generations.”

The Open Space Institute will be issuing a companion press release detailing grants that supported the Mosiers Knob project and others in the watershed.