Franklin Township in Chester County has become a key player in the preservation efforts within the White Clay Creek Watershed. In 2008 and 2009, a Growing Greener 2 grant program allowed Franklin Township to acquire three properties along the creek, for a total of 233 acres preserved. The two properties purchased in 2008 are a part of the White Clay Greenway, an ongoing preservation effort that is expanding protected land upriver from White Clay Creek Preserve in London Britain to White Clay Creek State Park in Delaware. The third property is now part of a municipal park and is open to the public for recreation.
In 2010, White Clay Creek celebrated its 10th anniversary as a Wild and Scenic River. The entire watershed was designated part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System, marking the first time that a full watershed received this designation. As a result, watershed protection in White Clay Creek has taken on what is referred to as a “beyond-the-riverbank” approach. This approach considers a wide variety of factors that can influence water quality and habitat health.
Since the river is protected as a watershed in its entirety, federal Wild and Scenic River legislation demands that the river be managed in such a way as to enhance water quality, natural resources, and the overall quality of life. Wild and Scenic Rivers are designated due to their outstanding natural or historical value, both of which are possessed by Clay Creek despite its proximity to several metropolitan centers.
Preservation around the creek has become an ongoing effort in both Pennsylvania and Delaware. The creek, which starts in Chester County, PA and flows into New Castle County, DE, drains a 107 square-mile watershed before flowing into the Christina River near Newport, DE. The watershed is home to almost 100,000 people with growing pressure from developers, and preservation in the watershed has been one of the best ways that municipalities have protected it from development. Chester County, with cooperation from governmental and non-profit partners, has managed to preserve several hundred acres of property bordering the waterway.
Franklin Township’s Open Space Preservation program has been particularly well-organized and successful. Their strategy of seeking out matching funds from multiple sources has allowed them to purchase land with high quality natural features using mostly state and county funding. However, with a significant amount of grant funding coming from the nearly expired GG2 grants, they might have trouble finding matching funds from the state in the near future.