No reason to spoil a nice long walk with a little white ball—especially now that New Garden Township’s purchase of Loch Nairn Golf Club has formally gone through. After two years of waiting, planning phases are now officially underway to convert the course into a park and open space. Cochranville’s Vince LaMantia, for one, is thrilled. A regular at Loch Nairn since moving to the area in 1978, LaMantia has joined his wife for a walk along the cart paths on this gorgeous Sunday afternoon. “With so many exclusive courses in the region, a course like this will get more appreciation as a park,” he says.
Completed in 1970, Loch Nairn’s first nine holes were supplemented by another nine by 1979. The late H.C. Smedley designed and built the course, and he personally planted more than 700 trees on its 106 acres. Fifty years later, the trees and sand traps have fallen into disrepair. “With any rain, the front nine fairways were often unplayable,” LaMantia says. “As a park, just sticking to the cart paths gives you a five-mile walk.”
Parkesburg’s Emily Dyer has her own connection to Loch Nairn, waitressing at its Greathouse at the Farm restaurant for two years as she preps for law school in South Carolina. “We expect a footpath will bring more business,” she predicts.
With an east-facing patio and a barn converted to a main dining room, the Greathouse will continue to offer casual dining. A unique event space captures the period charm of the original barn. Formerly part of Loch Nairn’s clubhouse, the Greathouse once operated in tandem with the Farmhouse, a circa-1817 structure that housed a fine-dining establishment until closing in 2020. Both structures have been retained by the Smedley family.
A distance runner, Dyer looks forward to running on Loch Nairn’s trails. “It’s nice for more people in the area to be able to get exercise outside in a such a beautiful and safe location,” she says. “So many longer trails in the county feel congested and overpopulated.”
Already known for its bevy of trails, New Garden Township was an ideal candidate to assume ownership of Loch Nairn’s grounds and enhance their accessibility. Since 2005, New Garden has funded a unique taxed-based program to assist landowners in preserving open space. Their Greenways Plan envisions a diverse and interconnecting system of trails. A team of 150 volunteers has worked with the township on the four existing trails, each roughly a mile long.
Natural Lands helped the township acquire Loch Nairn from the Smedley family. “We’re pleased to be able to provide planning and land protection services to municipalities as part of our mission to save open space,” says Kate Raman, conservation project manager at the organization, which is based in Media, Pennsylvania. “New Garden had learned that residents wanted longer trails. This park will provide those.”
After the purchase of Loch Nairn was finalized this past January, a master planning committee was formed to focus on a multiphase approach to repurposing the greenspace for passive recreation and as a nature preserve. Recent discussions have centered around expanding the existing cart paths to create multiuse trails.
Raman notes that a tributary to the White Clay Wild & Scenic River runs through the Loch Nairn property, offering a unique conservation challenge. Funding for the project is focused on enhancing water quality, and Natural Lands has partnered with Stroud Water Research Center in that effort. “Enhancing water quality and climate resilience are major goals,” Raman says.
When it comes to the Loch Nairn project, Mike Buck sees nothing but positives, crediting the township’s strong commitment to conservation and its 2005 open space referendum. “The purchase of Loch Nairn was huge win that checked a lot of boxes,” says Buck, New Garden’s superintendent of parks and open space.
A native of Milford, Delaware, Buck was lured to the area by its ready access to trails and open space. “It’s an honor to now have a hand in developing this project,” he says.
After the purchase of Loch Nairn was finalized this past January, a master planning committee was formed to focus on a multiphase approach to repurposing the greenspace for passive recreation and as a nature preserve. Recent discussions have centered around expanding the existing cart paths to create multiuse trails. “There’s some interest in disc golf, but no commitments have been made yet.” Buck says. “Realistically, it will take five to 10 years to implement everything.”
A public committee meeting to review master plans and drawings will happen sometime in late June. Natural Lands is taking the lead on things like replanting meadows. In the meantime, the park is open, but there’s no parking. “You need to pack out what you pack in,” Buck says. “Dogs on a leash are welcome. Parking will be addressed in Phase 1.”
The Smedley family has requested that the lot at Greathouse restaurant not be used for public parking. “But a stroll after lunch or dinner wouldn’t be a problem,” says Buck.