Located in South Central Pennsylvania within the southwestern region of South Mountain Conservation Landscape Initiative, Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve’s mission for the last 25 years has been to protect a high quality, cold water stream system (Swamp Creek Watershed) and to connect our surrounding community with the natural world by teaching, inspiring, and promoting stewardship of the environment.
Strawberry Hill is a non-profit conservation organization and education center located on 600+ acres in Hamiltonban Township, three miles north of Fairfield in Adams County, PA. The Preserve is open to the public, and annually we welcome more than 10,000 visitors including pre-school to 8th grade students, hikers, birders, families, and scout groups. Access is provided by way of ten miles of hiking trails and through a diverse selection of family, children’s, and adult educational programming provided in our facilities.
As the only non-profit environmental education center in Adams County, Strawberry Hill offers a variety of programs for children and adults, as well as schools and community groups throughout the year, both on and off-site. Experienced teacher/naturalists lead guided hikes and innovative nature programs that provide hands-on discovery activities.
Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve & Environmental Center strives to protect the Swamp Creek Watershed, a high- quality, cold-water stream, and promote the biodiversity of native plants and animals found in this sub watershed of the Chesapeake Bay. The focus of our conservation plan is habitat restoration and protection. All our research and activities focus on gathering information to determine the best management practices for preserving the habitats found in the unique South Mountain formation of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Strawberry Hill has 609 acres of property, where the largest parcel was once operated as a tree farm. All of our main trails are situated on old logging roads, once used to access this natural resource. Our main pond was originally built to supply water to an 1850′s saw mill that stood on the foundation of a now small cottage, “Lane House,” at the confluence of Swamp and Middle Creeks. The water courses and channels can still be clearly seen along the side of Mount Hope Road and behind the pavilion. Charcoal pits are located all around the preserve. The land was timbered, and due to this fact, we inherited a property that has an environment that was managed to maximize the most volume of timber. When Frances and Hans Froelicher purchased the land in the 1960′s, they proactively began to clean up the Swamp Creek Watershed. Strawberry Hill won awards because of the Froelicher’s proactive approach toward stewardship. Frances by trade was a community organizer and a planner, and in 1988, she completed an environmental inventory and assessment of the preserve. The purpose of this evaluation was to develop baseline information about the ecology of the preserve and to inventory the natural and cultural features of the property, in order to maintain and protect the Swamp Creek Watershed.
Recent Stewardship Activity
In 2002, Strawberry Hill obtained a grant to continue planning for the health of our forest. A forestry consultant was hired to develop a plan that would guide us as we maintained our forest for the present and for years to come. The stewardship plan was developed in conjunction with support from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), utilizing the baseline research completed in 1988. The plan laid out a management strategy to promote the health of Strawberry Hill’s forest – and therefore our wildlife, wetlands, and streams. Restoration has not been an uncommon project taken on by Strawberry Hill. Frances helped to clean up and restore Swamp Creek. Past volunteer board members were involved with the acquisition and restoration of the Gross Minerals quarrying operation. Because of these efforts, our watershed and the quarry is now a thriving home for the Red Spotted Newt. We are so proud of this work in fact, that we have just adopted the newt as our mascot in January 2009! As the board and employees of Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve determine the best course of action to manage our forest, we take seriously our mandate to be good stewards of the land under our care, including its trees, its wildlife, and its water. If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to meet to discuss your concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at (717) 642-5840.
In addition to providing quality environmental education to a growing number of people, Strawberry Hill protects and maintains 609 acres of the Swamp Creek Watershed, one of the few high-quality, cold-water streams within Adams County and Pennsylvania. Strawberry Hill offers public access to the watershed by maintaining 10 miles of walking trails. These trails are open daily to the public from dawn to dusk, free of charge, providing natural space and recreation opportunities for the community.
The driving values behind Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve and Environmental Center include:
- Natural areas are living classrooms for teaching about natural and cultural history. The primary teaching aids are the plants, animals, and habitats in the preserve. Trails and programs provide hands-on experiences with, and immersion in, the natural world that make learning fun. This interpretation fosters an appreciation and understanding of healthy natural systems while showing people how to take steps in daily living to protect and preserve the natural world.
- Conservation of the natural areas. Natural areas are reservoirs of biological diversity. The plants, animals, and other organisms that are protected on Strawberry Hill lands provide priceless and irreplaceable benefits for current and future generations. Natural areas provide ecological services such as water purification, flood control, and air quality improvement. They also provide critical habitat for migrating birds, spawning fish, and other wildlife, which in turn support local and distant economies through tourism and other outdoor recreational opportunities. Through proper management, these habitats will promote the continuance of these species and their associated benefits.
- Natural areas are places where people can take temporary refuge from an increasingly mechanized and urbanized world. Natural areas are places to strengthen environmental understanding and deepen one’s appreciation for the natural world. These places are maintained to provide an escape to the wild, allowing people to participate in activities that celebrate the outdoors.
Forest Stewardship Program
In 2002, Strawberry Hill completed a forest stewardship plan with support from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR). The purpose of this project was to develop a plan that would guide Strawberry Hill as we maintained our forest for the present and for years to come. This plan laid out actions needed to be taken in order to ensure the ongoing health of Strawberry Hill’s forest – and therefore to a great extent, its wildlife, wetlands, and streams. One of the primary recommendations of the plan was the removal of certain hemlocks in the core of the Preserve that had become infested by the hemlock woolly adelgid and that were dead or dying. A second recommendation of our forest stewardship plan involved addressing forest overcrowding. In some areas of our preserve, too many trees were growing too closely together, forcing the trees to compete for resources and thereby limiting their health. As a further result of this overcrowding, the forest understory – the shrubs, seedlings, saplings, and young trees that grow in the shade of the taller trees which make up the forest canopy – is sparse and unable to flourish. Our stewardship plan recommended thinning these stands in order to regenerate the understory and free up forest resources to keep the remaining trees healthy.
Salvage Tree Harvest & Shelter Cut
In late summer 2009, Glatfelter Pulp Wood Company completed the removal of select trees within 148 acres of Strawberry Hill’s forest. These diseased hemlock and stressed trees were removed in hopes to improve the health of the Preserve. Improvements began by repairing Swamp Creek Access Lane and building new access roads into the Preserve. In the end, the project created new hiking trails, an alternative parking area for large events, wildflower fields, new vernal pools, and a future maple grove. Glatfelter Pulp Wood Company completed all work on the timber harvest in the final weeks of 2009. Total net proceeds from the cut were $32,726. Fifty percent of the revenue was set aside through 2012 as a restricted asset to offset expenses for managing the forest. The balance was utilized in 2009 as earned revenue to support operations. Glatfelter then followed up with this project by providing a $5,000 contribution for Strawberry Hill’s educational programs.
NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service) Funding
In response to the timber cut, Strawberry Hill began monitoring the health and regeneration of the forest by developing an invasive plant management plan, and working with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to fund the removal of the unwanted plants. In 2010, Strawberry Hill began working with the USDA developing a three year strategy to manage the invasive plants on the preserve and conduct a habitat restoration project. The USDA committed $49,180 in support to complete the management objectives. The project allows for reimbursement of work completed, including staff and volunteer time associated with the project. 1. Yr. 1. $10,950 – Remove or control invasive, noxious, or prohibited plants in the forest understory through mechanical and herbicide control methods 2. Yr. 2. $5,280 – Construct an deer exclosure for the purpose redistricting deer access and promote early successional habitat development 3. Yr. 2-3. $10,950 – Continue forest stand improvement through spot treatment of invasive, noxious, or prohibited plants 4. Yr. 3. $22,000 – Establish a mix of native woody plants throughout the timbered areas
Strawberry Hill has successfully implemented the first two years of this strategy, by completing the invasive plant controls and constructing a 16-acre deer exclosure for early succession development. The exclosure is erected, helping to protect new natural regeneration, serve as a demonstration plot, and is used for educational programs. In 2013, the Preserve expects to continue the restoration project by planting over 1,000 new native trees and shrubs, and planting a variety of native herbaceous plants and grasses. Support from this project will be utilized to hire student forestry interns to help with the restoration.
PA Game Commission’s Cooperative Forest Game Program
Also in 2010, to assist with our Forest Stewardship Plan and to improve public access, Strawberry Hill enrolled in a public participation program with the PA Game Commission. The Commission’s Cooperative Forest Game Program was developed to provide increased protection to large forested tracts of the Commonwealth. It is available to interested landowners who own mostly forested properties and are willing to allow public hunting on the land. The Forest Game Program works to protect wildlife habitat and enhance public hunting areas in Pennsylvania. Participating landowners benefit from enhanced property protection and heightened awareness. Game Commission signs are provided to establish safety zones around occupied dwellings. Roads and trails that may be damaged or misused during certain periods of the year are considered officially closed when posted with signs provided by the agency. Protection through the posting of other official signs, and patrolling and enforcement of the Game and Wildlife Code by Game Commission personnel is also provided, especially when areas are being hunted. In addition to increasing access and safety, the Forest Game Program provides support for forest management by providing tree and shrub saplings for participants. Strawberry Hill will be able to receive up 500 free bare-root seedlings for wildlife food and cover from the state nurseries, and additional seedlings at a low cost.