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Wilma Quinlan Preserve earns state recognition


In the late 1960s, plans were in the works to possibly build apartments on the Sidebotham Farm, located along the Neshaminy Creek in New Britain Borough. At just under 24 acres, it was the last significant undeveloped property in the borough.

But Wilma Quinlan and Larry Miller had other ideas. Despite opposition from critics who feared the loss of tax revenue and the cost of future maintenance, Quinlan, a member of borough council at the time, and Miller, a borough resident, spearheaded an effort to purchase the parcel and spare it from development.

Over the next three years, they combined state and federal grants with private donations to raise the necessary funds to acquire the land. Their only goal was to protect the Neshaminy floodplain and preserve the property for future generations.

“If we didn’t,” Quinlan would say before passing away in 1987, “there would be nothing left for our grandchildren.”

Now fast forward 48 years. The Wilma Quinlan Wildlife Preserve has expanded to 35 acres, its trees and shrubs matured. Birds and other wildlife thrive, thanks to the hard work of volunteers. Visitors flock to the preserve’s numerous trails for nature study, wildlife observation, and birding and to enjoy “Miriam’s Meadow,” a 2.7 acre wildflower meadow.

The state recently recognized that hard work by presenting the Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve Committee with the Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence. It was the only borough-based organization among the 18 statewide winners.

Borough Councilman Tom Price, who serves as chairman of the preserve committee, said he is grateful to the committee members and other volunteers for their dedication to making the preserve an asset for the community.

“It’s an honor for our committee to be recognized with this award for all the work we’ve been doing in the Preserve over the past several years,” said Price, who also chairs the preserve committee. “I’m very grateful to our committee members and all the other volunteers who have helped us carry out this long-term and on-going habitat restoration project.”

The Department of Environmental Protection evaluated projects based on their degree of environmental protection, innovation, partnership efforts, economic impact, consideration of climate change, and sustainability and results achieved.

The Wilma Quinlan Nature Preserve Committee was honored specifically for a three-year habitat restoration project that included clearing out invasive species, installing nesting boxes, redesigning trails to prevent erosion, conducting a soil study, installing benches and plant 386 native trees, 119 native shrubs, and thousands of wildflowers.

This is the second year in a row that the borough’s nature preserve committee has won a prestigious environmental award for its restoration efforts. In 2018, the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve honored the committee with its Land Ethics Award for “the creative use of native plants in the landscape, sustainable and regenerative design, and ethical land management.”

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