Lenfest Center at the ChesLen Preserve dedication planned

Delaware County News Network

01 June 2013

On the evening of Saturday, June 15, Natural Lands Trust will host an event to commemorate the opening of the new Lenfest Center at ChesLen Preserve. The celebration will pay tribute to two stars of a more earthly variety: philanthropists Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, whose generous support made possible both the ChesLen Preserve and the new Center.

ChesLen Preserve, in Newlin Township, was established in 2007 as a result of a donation of land by the Lenfests and a transfer of parkland from Chester County. A later purchase of 195 acres expanded the preserve to its current 1,263 acres. The state-of-the-art Lenfest Center provides a base of operations for management of the preserve and a wonderful new public space for visitors to the preserve and community groups.

“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. “We were deeply honored to be given the opportunity to steward the ChesLen Preserve. Not only is it a natural gem, it is a lasting legacy of the Lenfests’ commitment to land conservation.”

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

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

Constructed within the general footprint of an old cannery that was a remnant of the preserve’s mushroom production history, the building site takes up 10,000 sf less built area than before and one-third less paved surface. The architects designed the building to fit gracefully into the natural surroundings. Only one story of the building is visible from the road; a lower level was built into an existing slope so that it is not visible from most viewpoints. Landscaping further enhances the building’s integration with the site. Twenty acres of “gardens,” designed by Jonathan Alderson Landscape Architects, include native grassland meadows, rain gardens, and more than one hundred native trees and shrubs.

The Saturday, June 15 dedication, co-chaired by Katharine Fisher Maroney and John B. (Jeb) Hannum, III, is from 6 to 9 pm and includes wine, local farm-inspired edibles, and music. Tickets begin at $150 per person. Tickets and additional sponsorship opportunities are available online at www.natlands.org or by calling 610-353-5587 ext. 224.

A free Community Day open house is scheduled for the following day, 1-4 p.m., Sunday, June 16. Visitors can explore the preserve grounds and the state-of-the-art facility on guided tours, and enjoy refreshments and activities for the whole family. Pre-registration is not required for the open house.

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