October 2014 | Changes Coming to Pennsylvania’s Horse Country as Supervisors Clamp Down
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Editorial: Newlin Township is a National Treasure

October 2014 - Stephanie Shertzer Lawson

Newlin Township, Chester CountyThe view from Heather Hill Farm in Newlin Township, Chester County.

I am not a resident of Newlin Township, but I am a huge fan.

I have been in awe of the bucolic countryside since I first turned off busy Route 41 onto the quiet country road that is Route 926 on my way to the Pennsylvania Hunt Cup many decades ago.  The narrow, two lane road snakes through miles and miles of nothing but beautifully manicured horse farms, the ruins of old stone barn walls, historic buildings, seamless fence lines and open space perfectly configured for foxhunting—all just 30 miles from Philadelphia.

The area still looks as it did when I first saw it decades ago. And though I wasn’t around a hundred years ago, I believe it probably looked much the same then.

I live in Lancaster County, a pretty place. And this area has Lancaster beat by a country mile.

How can anything so pristine continue to exist?

From Wikipedia:  For many years the King Ranch was the largest landowner in Newlin and adjoining townships. The ranch fattened Texas longhorn cattle, shipped north by railroad, on the lush grass of eastern Pennsylvania. The heart of the King Ranch property was preserved by land conservation easements in the 1980s through the tireless efforts of a number of local public spirited citizens. Today, much of the rich pasture and scenic vistas remain preserved perpetually from encroachment by intensive land development.

It was diehard equestrians who made the area a nirvana for horses. With more open space than you could ride in a weekend, pastures fenced with in and outs for foxhunting, and superb vet clinics, including New Bolton, just down the road, the area’s equestrian infrastructure continues to attract Olympic caliber horsemen from all over the world.  It spawned champions representing a myriad of disciplines-- racehorses, eventers, dressage horses, steeplechasers—all among the best in the world.

But Newlin Township’s value goes beyond equestrians. Open space, protected and preserved, is an asset that everyone can enjoy. The Township’s intrinsic value is its character. Diluting or destroying that character makes it just like any other of the thousand townships all over Pennsylvania. Value gone. Farms gone. Horse population and equestrian activity reduced forever.

Newlin Township and its neighbors are a national treasure. England has Exmoor, a similarly beautiful area of rolling hills and preserved horse farms. Though 75 percent of Exmoor is privately owned, and heavily equestrian--the area is home to nine hunts that press on though hunting has been outlawed for years–-it was made a National Park in 1954. France has Normandy, though its beauty pales, in my opinion, compared to Chester County. And the U.S. has Newlin Township and its neighbors.

Now this beauty is being threatened by onerous zoning laws that could change the pristine landscape forever. Township supervisor Janie Baird said the day after the September 8 meeting that the supervisors had heard it all before and they are going ahead.

This is an issue of the greater good. What has been created—by equestrians, through the township’s benign neglect--is so beautiful and so precious, it deserves to remain.  Perhaps the future of Newlin Township is too important to be left to Newlin Township.