Baseline Documentation for the Awbury Arboretum Conservation Easement
In 2015 a large portion of the Arboretum grounds was placed under a conservation easement, forever protecting it from development. The easement was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Commonwealth Financing Authority and will be held by Natural Lands Trust, Inc. (NLT).
The purpose of the easement is to protect natural habitat, preserve scenic views and to promote and advance governmental conservation policies. This was one of the first NLT easements within the City of Philadelphia. It is also one of the first that protects natural resources within an historical property.
An important step in the establishment of the easement was to document the condition of the property. LDCP was engaged by NLT to provide the baseline documentation that will be used as a reference in their annual inspections going forward. Building on our years of experience at the Arboretum, we collaborated with Erin McCormick of NLT and Denis Lucey, the Arboretum’s Landscape Manager to produce a thorough document describing this multivalent landscape. The report includes a brief history of the arboretum, an inventory of existing natural resources, an inventory of historical landscape resources, and legal documentation of the easement. There are over 90 supporting illustrations, diagrams and photographs.
Our report is perhaps the first document that tells the story of Awbury Arboretum as a landscape first. Documents like the 1997 Cultural Landscape Report and the 2000 National Historic District Application are very valuable in summarizing the history of the property, but like the field of historic preservation more generally, they tended to focus on landscape as secondary to, or as a setting for, architecture and historic events. Synthesizing this diverse information from the perspective of the landscape itself revealed new insights about the Arboretum’s history and how it became what it is today. It is our hope that this will have some effect on decisions being made today and in the future.