The work of Willistown Conservation Trust takes place on the ancestral lands of the Lenni Lenape. We honor the Lenape and other Indigenous caretakers of these lands and waters, the elders who lived here before, the Indigenous today, and the generations to come. We acknowledge the Lenni Lenape as the original people of this land and their continuing relationship with their territory. In our acknowledgment of the presence of Lenape people in their homeland, we affirm the aspiration of the great Lenape Chief Tamanend, that there be harmony between the Indigenous people of this land and the descendants of the immigrants to this land, “as long as the rivers and creeks flow, and the sun, moon, and stars shine.” As we enjoy and protect the beauty of Willistown and surrounding areas, we cannot forget its original inhabitants and how their way of life echoes throughout the conservation of this land and its natural resources. While we preserve the land we must also preserve its history and the history of the Indigenous people. By sharing their story with the community, and working with local Native American organizations including the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, we can hope to ensure that their legacy lives on with the land.
A Brief Overview
Found 20 miles west of Philadelphia, Willistown Conservation Trust (WCT) focuses on 28,000 acres within the watersheds of Ridley, Crum, and Darby Creeks of Chester and Delaware Counties.
Founded by Bonnie Van Alen in 1996, WCT's mission is to preserve and manage the open land, rural character, scenic, recreational, historic, agricultural and natural resources of the Willistown area and nearby communities, and to share these unique resources with people of all ages and backgrounds to inspire, educate and develop a lifelong commitment to the land and the natural world.
We have helped permanently conserve over 7,500 acres, including three nature preserves open to the public: Ashbridge Preserve, Kirkwood Preserve (pictured above), and Rushton Woods Preserve, which is home to the Rushton Conservation Center and Rushton Farm.
WCT offers six renowned programs for public engagement and research: the Bird Conservation, Community Farm, Education and Outreach, Land Protection, Stewardship, and Watershed Protection Programs.
Willistown Conservation Trust was initially known as the Willistown Area Conservation Program, which was established in 1979 as a satellite program of the Brandywine Conservancy.
With the encouragement of the community and key local conservation leaders, Willistown Conservation Trust (WCT) became an independent, community-based land trust and 501 (c) 3 in 1996 with a committed and active Board of Trustees. Bonnie Van Alen founded the organization with Alice Hausmann and Kathe McCoy, and they quickly got to work teaching neighbors about the many benefits of conservation easements and creating a community of conservationists within Willistown.
Despite tremendous growth pressures that have converted many neighboring communities into vast tracts of sprawl development, Willistown Conservation Trust's focus area in Chester County still remains largely an oasis of green space.
We continue to expand our conservation efforts using our holistic approach that explores the connections among land, birds, habitat, farm and water. While our land protection efforts are local to the Willistown area, our work has a regional and national impact on conservation.