Protecting the Prophecy Creek Corridor
More than a decade ago, WVWA worked in partnership with Montgomery County, Whitpain Township and several local residents, to protect 100 acres along the Prophecy Creek - which runs into the Wissahickon - through a combination of land acquisition and conservation easements. The acquired land became Briar Hill Preserve, which sits adjacent to Whitpain Township’s Prophecy Creek Park. The protection of these open spaces was part of a strategic prioritization of the Prophecy Creek Corridor – essentially the vegetative stream buffer along Prophecy Creek. In a recent analysis of more than a decade of water quality monitoring data from the Wissahickon and its tributaries, it was found that the Prophecy Creek is the healthiest creek in the watershed.
With the recent acquisition of the Cheston Family Preserve, there is now over 200 acres of protected open space in the Prophecy Creek Corridor. That number reflects the combined acreage of Briar Hill Preserve, Prophecy Creek Park and several easements. In the immediate vicinity you will also find WVWA’s Camp Woods, Armentrout Preserve and Willow Lake Farm.
Preserving Briar Hill
Otto Haas owned approximately 100 acres of upland woods floodplain, wetlands and meadows between Lewis Lane and Prophecy Creek. During his life the Haas family donated a conservation easement on the lands on both sides of the Prophecy Creek to WVWA. After Otto’s death Carol Haas Gravagno approached WVWA with their wish to further protect the land.
Conservation easements were placed on two homes. WVWA retained ownership of all the ecologically sensitive lands, including the Prophecy Creek and its floodplain, wetlands and upland woods. Since this 48.1 acre property abuts Whitpain Township’s Prophecy Creek Park, WVWA has protected much of the land along the Prophecy Creek from Skippack Pike to its confluence with the Wissahickon Creek on Four Mills Reserve.
The Cheston Family Preserve at Briar Hill
|Figure 1 (Click to enlarge map)
In 2018, one of the few remaining unprotected parcels in the Prophecy Creek Corridor (Figure 1) in Whitpain Township came up for sale. The 8.01-acre, undeveloped, parcel adjacent to the Briar Hill Preserve was part of the former estate of James Cheston IV, a conservation supporter who helped us to permanently protect Camp Woods nearly 3 decades prior. Mr. Cheston’s heirs have continued in their father’s footsteps, working with WVWA and our funding partners to ensure that this key property is forever preserved as open space, maintaining the natural character of the Prophecy Creek Corridor, an important natural area with 200+ acres of protected open space, in our region.
The Cheston Family Preserve at Briar Hill is largely open meadow habitat with some woodlands/hedgerows. There is also a small tributary to the Prophecy Creek that begins on the southwest corner of the property. You can access this piece of the Briar Hill Preserve by entering the Briar Hill trail system at Prophecy Creek Park (see map below).
The preservation of this open space was made possible thanks to funding from Montgomery County Planning Commission, Whitpain Township, and a small group of community members committed to seeing this property remain undeveloped in perpetuity.
Access: From the Prophecy Creek Park parking lot walk northeast, away from Skippack Pk, to the green bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the signs.
Parking: Park in the Prophecy Creek Park parking lot.
Habitat: This preserve is largely wooded, with both early and late forest and old field succession, as well as floodplain and wetland areas surrounding Prophecy Creek, which runs through the property and is fed by numerous groundwater springs.
Trail: There are two trails. One is a rustic dirt path that runs along Prophecy Creek and ends at approximately a half mile. Return by the same trail. The other trail is a half mile loop through mature woods and young scrub in succession. Dogs must be kept on leashes.
Amenities: Whitpain Twp provides a portable toilet and drinking fountain near the parking lot in Prophecy Creek Park.
Wildlife: A small, spring-fed pond on the property line between the Township’s park and the Preserve creates a habitat not found on most other WVWA preserves; Eastern Painted Turtles, Common Snapping Turtles, and Red-eared Sliders (non-native) have been seen here, as well as Northern Watersnakes, American Bullfrogs, muskrats, and green herons. Most notable, however, is the presence of the Northern Red-bellied Cooter, a species listed as Threatened in Pennsylvania.
Plant life: Red maple, sycamore, beech, black walnut and hackberry are the most common trees along the bank of the Prophecy, while tulip trees dominate the upland areas. Native woodland species dot the understory, including skunk-cabbage, mayapple, Virginia waterleaf and sensitive fern.