Young Professionals Network: #OptOutside

This story was written by Kristan Stengel from the Lancaster Conservancy

Close your eyes and picture the landscape of Lancaster County. What comes to mind? While we often think of farms as the dominant landscape of Lancaster County, we are also the beneficiaries of thousands of acres of forested land and miles of streams and rivers. These are the lands the Lancaster Conservancy works hard to protect – the forests and glens that are home to the plants and animals that depend on them for survival, and that our community depends on for recreation and enjoyment.

The Lancaster Conservancy was founded over 50 years ago with the mission of protecting open space for the benefit of future generations. Much has changed in the last half-century, but the core mission of the Conservancy remains the same.

This mission was brought into stark focus over the last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated to all of us the incredible healing power of spending time in nature. Record numbers of people visited our 47 preserves and over 45 miles of trails. Crowded preserve parking lots and busy trails showed how much our community depends on these outdoor spaces and we responded by stepping up our efforts to both protect more land and increase accessibility to all visiting and exploring the land we already own.

For the avid hiker, there is the Turkey Hill Trail that traverses 3.7 strenuous miles bookended by two breathtaking scenic vistas before looping back on the Enola Low Grade Trail. For the wildflower lover, Shenks Ferry Nature Preserve hosts brilliant displays of spring ephemeral wildflowers each year. Kellys Run Nature Preserve offers a variety of terrain, with its 3.8 loop mile that takes hikers on a journey through a pollinator park, meadows, glens, and ravines. And for those who want to bike, push, or roll, visit Conoy Wetlands Nature Preserve and its Falmouth Forest Garden, which sits along the paved and flat northern section of the Northwest River Trail.

The Conservancy engages and educates our community on the benefits of environmental protection and the complexity and beauty of our natural world. Our Nature Hour program offers the opportunity to deepen your understanding of nature with local and regional experts, with virtual webinars on topics that range from tree identification to sustainable agriculture. Each year the Conservancy also hosts Lancaster Water Week (this June 4-12!) which inspires our community to act to protect and restore our waterways through educational, volunteer, and experiential events. Climbers Run Nature Center is a hub for education and volunteerism, welcoming students, boy scouts, volunteers, and the community to learn about nature and the important role it plays in our lives in an immersive and hands-on setting. Our Community Wildlife Habitat program brings nature to your backyard, informing landowners on the changes they can make on their own properties to help wildlife thrive. Volunteers play a central role in the Conservancy’s work, whether it’s sharing information with visitors on the trail, getting their hands dirty while caring for a favorite nature preserve, or engaging in citizen science as they monitor water quality and stream health.

From hidden glens and tumbling streams to vibrant wildflowers and sweeping views, we are so very blessed to be living in a place with access to such beauty. The Lancaster Conservancy encourages you to get outside, explore, and reap the numerous benefits of time spent out in nature. Consider joining our movement to protect our wild and forested lands by volunteering, becoming a member, or joining us at an event. For more information on the Conservancy and how you can get involved, please visit our website at www.lancasterconservancy.org.