Asbury Woods and Mercyhurst University announce the sale of 40 acres of property from Mercyhurst to Asbury Woods. More than two years in the making, this transfer of land to Asbury Woods ensures that these 40 acres will be placed in permanent conservation status.
The land being transferred was gifted to then Mercyhurst College by local businessman Douglas James in 1992 for the creation of a nature preserve. Mercyhurst and Asbury Woods had a long-standing agreement that allowed for the development of a public-access trail through the James Preserve property to establish the Asbury Woods Greenway Trail which connected properties around the Nature Center on the west side of Asbury Road with Asbury Woods’ Browns Farm parcel on Sterrettania Road. Asbury Woods staff and volunteers maintained the trails and Mercyhurst students and faculty used the property for biology classes and research projects. This decades-long partnership allowed the James Preserve property to serve as an educational tool while providing broad public access to natural environments.
In recent years the administrations of Mercyhurst University and Asbury Woods began conversations on transferring ownership of the James Preserve to Asbury Woods. “Mr. James had a vision of a permanent nature preserve that provided our faculty and students with a living laboratory for scientific inquiry and hands-on learning. Asbury Woods has a mission at the intersection of education and conservation. Their status as a land trust makes them the organization best positioned to continue to steward this land. Mercyhurst students and faculty will continue to have access to the property for student field trips, faculty research and hands-on learning, while Asbury Woods will make sure the 40 acres is permanently protected along with their other 176 acres of property,” noted Kathleen Getz, Mercyhurst University President.
Jennifer Farrar, Executive Director of Asbury Woods, added, “Asbury Woods is grateful to Mercyhurst University and their foresight to permanently conserve this greenspace. Generations of Erie County residents and Mercyhurst students benefit from this land being conserved, and it will help ensure that plants and wildlife are protected.”
The transfer of the land to Asbury Woods was made possible thanks to Mercyhurst University’s generosity in donating half of the appraised value of the 40 acres, equal to a $117,000 donation. The acquisition was also supported by a PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources grant, Erie Insurance, the Erie Community Foundation, Bill & Sally DeWitt, the John M. & Gertrude E. Petersen Foundation, along with several other private donations including Amy and Jeff Brinling, Dave Uhlig and Patti Williams, Jennifer Farrar, and Brian Winslow.
The 40 acres purchased is adjacent to 11 acres that Asbury Woods purchased in April 2021 that was supported through the same grant and funders. This brings Asbury Woods total acreage to 216.