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Northampton Township, Then and Now

Rich in history, the Churchville Nature Center is a hallmark of the community.

Right in your own backyard and neatly tucked away off Churchville Lane lies a treasure-trove of nature, education, preservation and environmental stewardship. A facility of the Bucks County Parks and Recreation, the Churchville Nature Center, which turns 47 this year, is overflowing with diversity.

Whether for study, exploration or contemplation, the Churchville Nature Preserve, which spans 54 acres, is bursting with wildlife gardens, meadows, marshes, a pond, reservoir, two miles of trails through field and forest habitats, a Lenape Village, picnic areas and a visitor center, which houses exhibits and the gift shop. A 5,479-square foot ‘green and sustainable’ LEED-certified addition is underway.

“We’re an island of green and a nature sanctuary in the sea of suburbia,” explained assistant director Kirsten Becker. “We’re a place to connect with nature, whether it’s through a quiet stroll on the trails, a nature program or as a resource for questions and information. We’re here for our community.”

Becker said that the center gets about 95,000 combined visitors a year from school groups, general visitors, program participants, special events, volunteers and organizations that use the facility.

But what stands out among the peaceful scenery and buildings on the property, originally known as the Franklin Farm, is the historical and stately old stone farmhouse. Built in three sections (date undetermined), it was the residence of one of the earliest township settlers.  

The nature center was originally run from the downstairs of the farmhouse, Becker pointed out. Up until a couple of years ago, the farmhouse had a dual use. The upstairs and half of the downstairs was a private residence and the remaining downstairs area was used as a classroom and office. The farmhouse is now being renovated for additional office space.

“The pond on the property was originally a cement pool used by the family. Part of it was dug out to create a more natural pond,” Becker continued. “We have renamed it the Dragonfly Pond since the symbol of the nature center is a dragonfly.”

The Churchville Reservoir, or Mill Creek Reservoir, is fed by Mill Creek, which runs through Northampton Township and exits the reservoir near Chinquapin Road and crosses Holland Road. It was originally excavated and dammed up from 1938 to 1942 by the Philadelphia Suburban Water Company as reserve water for the suburban Philadelphia area, said Becker. It has changed hands a couple of times and is currently owned by Aqua Pennsylvania.

Becker said the main attractions of the Churchville Nature Center are the walking the trails, with the center’s Lenape Village coming in second. Touring the Lenape Village is popular with children. They get to view historically accurate information that depicts life in the village in the 1500s when our region’s earliest inhabitants settled. Tours of the village begin the first Sunday in April and run through October.

There’s a plethora of special events and programs available, and with the nice weather right around the corner, you’ll want to grab the family and plan a visit to this very special place.

The Churchville Nature Center is located at 501 Churchville Lane in Churchville. For more information call 215-357-4005 or visit www.churchvillenaturecenter.org to view the schedule of events and programs available.

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