MEDIA, Pa., Novem­ber 20, 2018 Thanks to a stag­ger­ing groundswell of sup­port — con­sist­ing of vocal com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, Town­ship offi­cials, mem­bers of the Penn­syl­va­nia leg­is­la­ture, the Low­er Meri­on Con­ser­van­cy, and many oth­ers — Stoneleigh: A Nat­ur­al Gar­den is no longer at risk of being developed.

This past spring, the Low­er Meri­on School Board announced it had tar­get­ed the 42-acre Vil­lano­va estate as a pos­si­ble site for a new mid­dle school and sports com­plex. Despite the prop­er­ty being pro­tect­ed by a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment, the School Board was pre­pared to seize it using emi­nent domain.

Tues­day morn­ing, Low­er Meri­on School Dis­trict announced that it had iden­ti­fied an alter­na­tive loca­tion for its ball­fields and thus would end con­sid­er­a­tion of Stoneleigh.

The District’s threat to seize the pub­lic gar­den prompt­ed Nat­ur­al Lands to launch the #Save­Stoneleigh aware­ness cam­paign. In response, near­ly 40,000 peo­ple signed an online peti­tion, 3,000 house­holds dis­played Save Stoneleigh” signs in their yard, and thou­sands sent mes­sages of con­cern to the Low­er Meri­on School Board. Some 350 res­i­dents attend­ed a May School Board meet­ing wear­ing crim­son Save Stoneleigh t‑shirts.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, say­ing no’ to the School Dis­trict wasn’t enough,” said Nat­ur­al Lands Pres­i­dent Mol­ly Mor­ri­son. But the over­whelm­ing response of the com­mu­ni­ty — from Low­er Meri­on and far beyond — sent a clear mes­sage: tak­ing any inch of Stoneleigh would be a dev­as­tat­ing loss… one that must be avoid­ed at all costs.”

In late June, the Penn­syl­va­nia leg­is­la­ture passed House Bill 2468 by wide mar­gins and it was quick­ly signed it into law. The new law requires that enti­ties like school dis­tricts and local gov­ern­ments seek court approval before tak­ing prop­er­ty by emi­nent domain if it is pro­tect­ed by a con­ser­va­tion ease­ment. Prompt­ed by the threat to Stoneleigh, this extra­or­di­nary leg­isla­tive suc­cess was a result of the lead­er­ship and deter­mi­na­tion of the Bill’s orig­i­nal spon­sors: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives War­ren Kampf, Kate Harp­er, and Mar­cy Toe­pel, along with Sen­a­tor Bob Men­sch and a host of bipar­ti­san supporters.

Per­haps best known for the icon­ic hare sculp­ture locat­ed near the inter­sec­tion of Spring Mill and Coun­ty Line Roads in Vil­lano­va, Stoneleigh was once the beloved home of the Haas fam­i­ly. Fol­low­ing the deaths of John and Chara Haas — whose ash­es are scat­tered on the prop­er­ty — in an extra­or­di­nary act of gen­eros­i­ty, the estate of John Haas donat­ed all of Stoneleigh to Nat­ur­al Lands in 2016. After a two-year peri­od dur­ing which Nat­ur­al Lands under­took ren­o­va­tions to con­vert the for­mer pri­vate estate to a pub­lic gar­den, Stoneleigh: A Nat­ur­al Gar­den opened to the pub­lic in May, 2018.

Since open­ing its gates, Stoneleigh has wel­comed thou­sands of vis­i­tors who’ve come to stroll the gar­den paths, admire the tow­er­ing trees, and take inspi­ra­tion from native gar­den design — all free of charge.

At last, we can be assured that Stoneleigh will remain a place of beau­ty and joy for gen­er­a­tions to come,” said Mol­ly Mor­ri­son. This has been a try­ing few months. How­ev­er, we have been heart­ened by the remark­able pub­lic sup­port for Nat­ur­al Lands and Stoneleigh. It has been a pow­er­ful reminder that our com­mu­ni­ties’ green spaces are beloved, and that there is a large and pas­sion­ate con­stituen­cy ready to stand in their defense if needed.”

Nat­ur­al Lands is host­ing an event to cel­e­brate Stoneleigh’s bright future; all are wel­come. For those with Save Stoneleigh” signs on dis­play in their yards, there will be SAVED!” stick­ers avail­able for pick­up that can be affixed to the yard signs. (They’ll also be avail­able for pick up in the Stoneleigh Wel­come Kiosk begin­ning Tues­day, Decem­ber 4, for any­one who can­not attend the cel­e­bra­tion event.)

Stoneleigh Saved – A Com­mu­ni­ty Cel­e­bra­tion
Sun­day, Decem­ber 2, 1:003:00 PM (remarks at 2:00 PM)
Cook­ies and light refresh­ments will be served.
The event is free, but space is lim­it­ed and pre-reg­is­tra­tion is required.

Nat­ur­al Lands is ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing and nur­tur­ing nature’s won­ders while cre­at­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for joy and dis­cov­ery in the out­doors for every­one. As the Greater Philadel­phia region’s old­est and largest land con­ser­va­tion orga­ni­za­tion, Nat­ur­al Lands has pre­served more than 125,000 acres, includ­ing 44 nature pre­serves total­ing more than 23,000 acres. Some 2.5 mil­lion peo­ple live with­in five miles of land under the organization’s pro­tec­tion. Land for life, nature for all. nat​lands​.org.

Media Inquiries:
Kirsten Wern­er, Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions
610 – 353-5587 ext. 267