FRANKLIN — Sophie Rodney Pyle Homsey has lived in rural Franklin Township, near the village of Landenberg, for more than 30 years. She and her husband ran a small farm with a 19th century farmhouse, and while they gardened the 15-acre property, she was dedicated to keeping it largely as nature intended.
“She’s always had that in her, her love of the natural world,” her son, Andrew Homsey, said in a recent interview. “She always wanted a little place that she could keep just as wild. His love was nature.
But as she got older, Homsey saw that the world she had lived in along the White Clay Creek basin in southern Chester County was changing.
Homsey, who enjoyed walking along the rural roads of Landenberg, was well aware that the area was not the same as she had chosen so many years before – the roads were getting much busier and development was approaching. . closed in 2018 with her husband, David, and died the following year in Venice, Florida.
On June 24, three years to the day after Homsey died at age 80, Natural Lands announced the permanent preservation of his 15-acre farm. In addition to preserving scenic views, forests and grasslands, the conservation easement provides protection for over 600 feet of a tributary to East Branch White Clay Creek.
Water from this unnamed tributary eventually enters the state of Delaware and serves as a major source of drinking water for New Castle County, including Wilmington, where Andrew Homsey lives. The White Clay Creek joins the Christina River at Wilmington, Del., about a mile from its confluence with the Delaware River. The entire White Clay Creek watershed is designated a “Wild and Scenic River”, a federal classification for waterways of outstanding natural and cultural value.
The conservation plan was put together by Andrew Homsey and his sister, and David Niles, his widower.
“She had a love of the land,” Andrew said in an interview Thursday. “For us, this is a true statement of her heritage and what drew her to the region in the first place. We believe this is an important part of the ideals she represented when she was still alive. .
Homsey’s connection to the region was not just its property ownership. His great-uncle was Howard Pyle, a founding member, along with NC Wyeth and others, of the now famous Brandywine School of Art.
She was born in Wilmington, to Sophie Janvier Pyle and Walter Pyle Jr. who served in the Works Projects Administration as curator of murals in Delaware during this time, the youngest of three sisters.
A talented artist, illustrator and columnist, Homsey was also a keen observer of the natural world and a member of the Delaware Ornithological Society. Her passion for nature and natural history led her to a rewarding position as a librarian at the then newly opened Delaware Museum of Natural History, where she met her future husband, who at the time was the chief ornithologist of the museum.
After moving to Franklin, she pursued her passion for teaching throughout a long career as a high school English and Latin teacher at Tatnall and Sanford Schools.
In addition to preventing subdivision and development, the Homsey Conservation Easement also places limits on activities that can generate soil-laden runoff and sedimentation, particularly on steep slopes, woodlands and edges of streams. property water.
“As our region experiences more and more climate-related natural disasters, such as devastating storms and extreme flooding, the importance of unspoiled open spaces like the Homsey property becomes all the more clear,” said the President of Natural Lands, Oliver Bass.
The acquisition of the conservation easement on the Homsey property was funded by the Chester County Conservancy Grants Program, in conjunction with a valuable donation from the landowners. Franklin Township officials, the Virginia Cretella Mars Foundation, and the National Park Service, through the White Clay Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, also funded the costs of the project.
The township and county provided stewardship funds to Natural Lands for the perpetual monitoring, administration and enforcement of the conservation easement.
Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline said, “The preservation of this 15-acre property is a tremendous legacy, honoring the memory of Sophie Homsey and protecting valuable watersheds.
“It is a perfect example of the environmental and economic value of open space conservation that Chester County residents have supported for over 30 years, and it also shows how our focus on land preservation is positively impacting areas and people beyond our county’s border,” they said, according to a news release.
“Franklin Township is thrilled to see such a beautiful property retained as undeveloped land. It’s a real asset to retaining Landenberg’s rural character,” said Paul Overton, member of the township’s parks, recreation and open space board.
“The Homsey property abuts existing Homeowners Association land, creating a large greenway corridor for wildlife and for people to enjoy once the township creates a trail. We really appreciate the Homsey family and applaud Natural Lands for making the connection.
“Preserving this property was one of my mother’s stated goals and her dearest hope,” said Andrew Homsey. “While Landenberg’s persona has changed significantly around her throughout her time there, her interest in keeping her little part as natural as possible has always been very important to her. Her family is very happy that her vision can be realized and secured in perpetuity for the benefit of the whole community.
To contact editor Michael P. Rellahan, call 610-696-1544.