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The Lenfest Center Opens at the ChesLen Preserve


This past May, the Lenfest Center opened at ChesLen Preserve in Chester County, Pa., providing office and storage space for the nature preserve and upgraded facilities for its visitors.

ChesLen Preserve

Named after Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, the new center is a symbol of their generosity and philanthropy.

Founded in 2007 in Newlin Township, the 1,263-acre ChesLen Preserve is the result of a land donation by the Lenfests, a transfer of land from Chester County, and an additional purchase of 195 acres by the Natural Lands Trust, the land conservation organization that owns and manages the preserve along with 41 others in the region. The Lenfest Center provides a base of operations for management of the preserve and a wonderful new public space for visitors and community groups.

Archer and Buchanan Architecture Ltd., whose work includes facilities at the Scott Arboretum at Swarthmore College and the Whip Tavern renovation, designed the 9,300-square-foot Lenfest Center. The center features green design elements such as geothermal heating and cooling, high-efficiency lighting, and recycled materials. The majority of the facility is dedicated to storage and maintenance of equipment; however, it also includes offices for preserve staff and accommodations for volunteers, a modest meeting room, an outdoor pavilion for occasional events, and restrooms for preserve visitors.

The new center was constructed within what was previously a mushroom cannery, taking up 10,000 square feet less than before and one-third less paved surface. Tucked into a slope and gracefully integrated into the natural surroundings, only one story of the new building is visible from the road. Twenty acres of gardens, designed by Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, are also part of the new center, which includes native grassland meadows, rain gardens, and more than 100 native trees and shrubs.

The Lenfest Center dedication event.

“The Lenfests are among the country’s leading philanthropists and we are remarkably fortunate that Gerry and Marguerite have made their home region the focus of so much of their generosity,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust, which owns and stewards ChesLen Preserve. Not only is [ChesLen Preserve] a natural gem, it is a lasting legacy of the Lenfests “commitment to land conservation.”

Regarding the center, Gerry Lenfest said, “I give great credit to Molly Morrison and Natural Lands Trust for presenting me with the opportunity to preserve this land in perpetuity.” Marguerite Lenfest added, “The Lenfest Center is a great vision with a great team of people behind it.”

The preserve is stewarded by the Natural Lands Trust, one of the region’s foremost land conservation organizations, which is currently celebrating its 60th year of protecting the forests, fields, streams and wetlands of eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

At the center’s recent dedication, Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest “raised $80,000 to bolster an endowment that will support the ongoing costs of the preserve,” said Kirsten Werner, Director of Communications for Natural Lands Trust, adding the new center has sparked, “a lot of community interest and has been very well received.” She also commented that “the center takes up less built space than the previous building and incorporates a lot of reused materials,” and that it is “in harmony with the natural landscape.” She added that the hope of Natural Lands Trust is that it will be “a community resource for people and nonprofits to use.”

The Lenfest Center and ChesLen Preserve are open to the public and free of charge every day. For more information, please call Natural Lands Trust at 610-353-5587 or please visit http://www.natlands.org/?p=5393.