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Land Conservancy of Adams County Month

(4/2012) As we celebrate Land Conservancy of Adams County Month, we should pause to review the history of the Land Conservancy and to honor our citizens who have had the foresight, passion, and dedication to establish an organization through which we can preserve the rural character and beauty of Adams County.

Interest in land preservation throughout our nation, and indeed, the world, began growing in the middle of the last century, particularly after the establishment in 1951 of The Nature Conservancy.

In January 1990, the Agricultural Land Preservation Board was established in Adams County by the Adams County Board of Commissioners through the authority of legislation passed by the State in 1981 and amended in 1988. John Corris, the original director of the county Agricultural Land Preservation Program, and Hal Greenlee, one of the original members of the board, shared an interest in promoting a land conservancy, defined as "a committee or organization concerned with preservation of historical or natural resources." Together they laid the groundwork by visiting other communities with land trusts and by gathering information concerning negotiating for and monitoring of easements, financing, mission and purpose statements, and bylaws and policies.

When Ellen Dayhoff became director of the county AgLand Program, she occasionally had lunch with Dean Shultz, with whom she discussed land and resource preservation. One noon, as they were having lunch at Hartzell’s (now Ping’s), Dean remarked, "You know, Ellen, what we need in Adams County is a land trust."

The passion of a local landowner launched the conservancy from the idea stage into reality. Gary Sterner desperately wanted to donate an easement on his property to a nonprofit organization and felt frustrated that there was no such organization in Adams County. Once landowners themselves felt the need, the time had come to put ideas into action.

A small group of citizens – Hal and Vicki Greenlee, Dean Shultz, Dick Schmoyer, County Commissioners Harry Stokes, Dick Waybright, and Tom Weaver, County Solicitor John White, Bicky Redman, and Ellen Dayhoff – met February 1, 1994, to discuss how to get the organization up and running. In September 1995, Attorney John Wolfe assisted with the creation of the bylaws and with filing all the appropriate forms for the Land Conservancy of Adams County to become a 501(c)(3) organization. On June 25, 1996, the first board of directors met and elected officers: President, Dean Shultz; Vice-President, Gary Sterner; Secretary, Jim Paddock; Treasurer, Allen Haar.

The Adams County Commissioners have been supportive of the Land Conservancy since its inception and continue their support to this day through in-kind services and monetary donations. In 1996, they funded the hiring of Alan Musselman as consultant to the Conservancy. He suggested a "Founding Member Campaign," and by the end of the campaign in 1997, 137 businesses and individuals had donated a minimum of $250 each to become Founding Members of the Land Conservancy. A plaque commemorating these special people and organizations is now located in the lower level of the Ag Center, outside the LCAC office. In 2008 the Commissioners created the Green Space Program, which has been, according to Pat Naugle, President of LCAC, "a huge success."

The citizens of Adams County have also demonstrated their support of land and resource preservation. On November 4, 2008, the voters of Adams County approved overwhelmingly – by a 75% majority – a referendum to fund the Water and Land Protection Bond issue for $10 million for preservation of land in Adams County – open space, forest, watershed, and agricultural land.

The first easement donation was from Tom and Doris Cole (8.349 acres), and the first in fee donation was given by Alma Diehl and is named Pigeon Hills Nature Preserve (6.4 acres), located in Berwick Township. The LCAC has now helped 95 landowners protect 7,428 acres with more than 115 easements on properties throughout Adams County.

When Tom and Doris Cole entered an easement agreement with LCAC their intent and expectation was that their land would be preserved in perpetuity – a very long time indeed. From the very beginning of LCAC, the organization has been preparing for this long term commitment to the Coles and to all the other landowners. The Conservancy established two funds, the Stewardship Endowment Fund and the Endowment Fund, in which the organization accumulates monies for the future. This year LCAC also created the Stewardship Circle to ensure that the organization will be able to monitor and, if necessary, to defend all easements. From its inception, LCAC has recognized stewardship as an essential part of its fulfillment of its mission – to preserve the rural lands and character of Adams County.