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March 16, 1998
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Brightside Farm - GVSD's 55 Acre Parcel
The following newsletter was distributed in draft form at the August 2, 1999 regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors. At the time, the GVSD was planning to sell 25 of their 55 acres. Note: The Brightside Farm "Vista Night" at 7:00 PM August 18 at the Rapp House announced in the original newsletter has been replaced by an open meeting on the purchase of the entire 55 acres at 7:30 PM, August 18 at Charlestown Elementary School.
Saving Charlestown's Century Farm
Dear Charlestown Residents,
for the Next Millennium
The subdivision and sale of the Pyle family farm on Yellow Springs Road, their home, for 103 years, has been the focus of intense debate within the Township since 1997. This newsletter proposes a plan to save the centerpiece of the tract - the 1809 farmstead called Brightside Farm. We are advocating the Township and Great Valley School District create a common goal to assure the 25-acre tract be deed restricted from subdivision to preserve this unique cultural landscape.
We also have a proposal for you to consider - to have the people of Charlestown purchase the farm. We are inviting you to share in a vision of the Brightside Farm as a place where we can grow community, where you meet your neighbors, where you can be a part of a "community supported agriculture" farm, where residents dedicated to horse farming meet to train and show, and where everyone can share in Charlestown's rural character.
Please join our vision for the Brightside Farm - Charlestown's Century Farm for the Next Millennium.
The Charlestown Farm Committee.
The Pyle Farm
Charlestown's Century Farm
The 135-acre Pyle family farm on Yellow Springs Road sits on a high plateau, looking west as far as the eye can see. As your eyes sweep the green fields to the horizon, they center on the Brightside Farm, a collection of red roofed barns and outbuildings with a white farmhouse - all set back from the road in a perfect scene of nature and a family's commitment to the land. With Harold Pyle's death in 1997, the family's stewardship of this land came to an end.
Community Institutions to the Rescue
The Township and School District as Stewards?
The Pyle family needed to settle the estate as soon as possible. Fortunately, two community institutions, the Township and the Great Valley School District (GVSD), acquired the most valuable 75 acres. The Township purchased 20 acres at the comer of Hollow and Yellow Springs Roads, surrounding the historic Rapp House. The GVSD purchased 55 acres, including the Brightside Farm homestead, for athletic playing fields. The Pyle's hopes were these institutions could find a way to keep this land open, forever.
However, the recent subdivision of the 55-acre parcel owned by the GVSD threatens this vision. The GVSD has determined that only 30 acres are needed for playing fields. The subdivision has created a new 25-acre parcel, including the Brightside Farm homestead, that will be sold unprotected from further subdivision. The loss of this parcel to development will lose forever the vista that defines the vision of Charlestown as a sanctuary for open space.
Invest in Open Space
Connected to the past, committed to the future
The people of Charlestown need to act now to preserve this land. We need to invest in the stewardship of the Brightside Farm. Purchasing the farm is an opportunity to be connected to the past and committed to the future of farming in Charlestown. However, it is not enough to simply own the land, tending it as a symbol of something lost. We need to have our awn vision of living on the land, a reason to preserve the open space.
The Charlestown Farm
A Community Center
The plan is to integrate the 25-acre Brightside Farm and the 20-acre site surrounding the Rapp House into a community center. The site will be home to a newly created "community supported agriculture" (CSA) farm, an equestrian facility, and areas to host public events. The plan is proposed as a joint venture among the Township, the Great Valley School District, and the two new groups formed to manage the farm.
The plan is for these community institutions to commit to starting and sustaining a place dedicated to local farming, education, and rural recreation opportunities. The farm will create a legacy of preserving open space with a purpose: as a farm, as a center for residents interested in horses and nature, as a meeting place, and classroom for young and old.
Community Supported Agriculture
The farmer and community as partners
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a way to manage a farm that allows the community to become a direct partner with a local farmer. Unlike traditional farms that operate in an international marketplace, a CSA operates as a local business serving individuals who purchase shares each year from the output of the farm. The farmer is paid out of the share funds which also pay for all expenses and capital costs. The Charlestown CSA will grow organic produce crops and serve as an educational facility about food, animals, and the environment.
Supporting neighbors dedicated to open space
We have all but lost the dairy, beef, and crop farms that defined the character of Charlestown. The horse farms that are left are the last islands of open farmland in a sea of suburbia. The Township is blessed with a horse farm community; neighbors dedicated to open space. How can we keep and attract new buyers of horse farms?
We propose an equestrian center on the farm that will include rings and a multi-purpose show ground. The Pickering Pony Club, a youth equestrian club devoted to training and education, will establish its headquarters at the Brightside Farm. The farm can offer facilities for Therapeutic Riding programs and host other community events, utilizing the adjacent 30-acre GVSD playing fields.
In addition, the farm will become a destination for a trail network throughout the township that will serve everyone. The trail network will connect the Brightside Farm and GVSD playing fields site with our schools, the Great Valley Nature Center, Pickering Creek Preserve, and Charlestown Park. The facilities can also serve as a trailhead for the Horseshoe Trail.
The Charlestown Farm Committee
The Charlestown Farm Project is a citizens' initiative in Charlestown Township. An advocacy group of residents, The Charlestown Farm Committee, is working to coordinate the purchase and establishment of the Brightside Farm.
The CSA and Equestrian Center will form separate nonprofit corporations, chartered to manage activities, raise funds and enter into long-term lease agreements with the Township. The Township currently maintains the Charlestown Park through similar public/private agreements.
The plan for operating the farm will include several new and innovative management partnerships that will reflect the unique requirements and missions of the sponsoring organizations. Facilities and educational programs will be developed to serve the GVSD students and the community, young and old.
Funding the Purchase
Leveraging transfer taxes to invest in open space
The Pyle Farm was sold for $23,500 / acre. That's $687,500 for 25 acres. We are proposing the Township make the GVSD whole (including the cost of money). The Township is eligible for 50% matching grants of up to $350,000 from Chester County for open space acquisition. These grants can then be leveraged to match state and federal grants. This means given the will and time, the Township can fund as much as 75% of this project with grant monies.
The Township's portion can come from: existing general fund surpluses, existing open space funds, dedicating a percentage of future transfers tax revenues, and a private fund raising campaign.
The GVSD has indicated they are Interested in selling the Brightside Farm as soon as possible. The Township must act now or this irreplaceable vista is gone forever.
For more Info call:
- The people of Charlestown Township need to learn about the Brightside Farm on Yellow Springs Road.
- Call, write or fax the Supervisors and give your support to the purchase of the Brightside Farm. Support the Farm Committee's requests that the Supervisors meet with the GVSD as soon as possible and fund the development of a Conceptual Master Plan for the Brightside Farm.
- Call, write or fax the School District Directors urging them to work with the Township to preserve Brightside Farm.
Community Supported Agriculture
Mark J. Connolly 610-983-9447
Nancy Long 810-933-4723
Robert Jones 610-363-2166
Holly Bernhard 610-983-0684
Alix Coleman 610-827-1577
Bob Roggio 610-935-5878
Marcia Solda 810-935-2545
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