by Pete Mazzaccaro
A deal announced last month to preserve the 41-acre St. Martins Golf Course in Chestnut Hill was finalized on December 17. The deal took the form of a preservation easement on the entire property that is held by Natural Lands Trust, eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey’s oldest and largest conservation organization.
The course itself was purchased from the Woodward Family by The Philadelphia Cricket Club for $600,000. The club had leased the 9-hole course from the Woodward family for nearly 150 years.
The Woodward family said it would donate the entirety of the purchase price to the National Lands Trust, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
“We are pleased and honored to have finalized this agreement with Natural Lands Trust and The Philadelphia Cricket Club,” said Charles Woodward, a great-great-grandson of Henry Houston and spokesman for the family. “In conserving this acreage we are securing and promoting an important legacy of open space in our community. At the same time we are extremely pleased to support three local charities we care deeply about: Natural Lands Trust, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.”
The easement effectively gives the Natural Lands Trust the rights to refuse any use of the property that would be inconsistent with conservation of the space. The intent is to make sure the property remains open space and never becomes a sight for residential development.
“The fact that our organization originated in Chestnut Hill with a small group of advocates who wanted to protect open space from development gives this easement extra-special significance for us,” said Natural Lands Trust President Molly Morrison. “We are honored to have earned the confidence of the Woodward family to protect their legacy and excited to join The Philadelphia Cricket Club in preserving this iconic property for generations to come. This is the second largest conservation easement that we now hold in Philadelphia.”
“We are very pleased to have been a part of this historic transaction, for both our Chestnut Hill community and for The Cricket Club, said PCC President, Michael J. Vergare. “We look forward to working with Natural Lands Trust to preserve this open space, which has served as a historic venue for golf for more than a century. We are exceedingly grateful to the Woodward family for their extraordinary generosity in making this possible.”