Establishing Access at Thomas Darling Preserve


Otherworldly landscapes exist just north of the Lehigh Valley, and soon, the public will receive easy access to a Wildlands’ preserve that embodies the rare and special ecosystems that exist in this part of the Lehigh River watershed. Located on the Pocono Plateau in Gouldsboro, Pa, Thomas Darling Preserve is comprised of over 1,300 acres of spruce forests, groundwater-fed glacial wetlands, and prime habitat for rare birds, insects and even endangered mammal species.

When Wildlands acquired this acreage, land stewardship and habitat management goals were identified and a plan put into action.  Since the initial acquisition, Wildlands’ staff, volunteers and students have worked on and with the land to promote healthy ecosystems. The permanent protection and continuing environmental stewardship of these natural lands is made possible through the generous support of Wildlands’ giving community, visionary partners and legacy relationships.

Environmental Stewardship Partners & Research

The stewardship of these acres , which were at first rugged and unruly, is accomplished with the help of key partnerships, including the Pocono Lake Preserve community, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC).

Thomas Darling is part of a cooperator program with the PGC that allows access for hunters at the preserve, and provides the PGC with authority to enforce rules and regulations for safe enjoyment on the property.

In addition, DCNR has provided funding for stewardship and access at the preserve as it generates green tourism to the region and funnels dollars into local sports and outdoor recreation businesses.

With significant headway gained in habitat management areas, such as successful controlled burns, invasive species control, and student research projects on insect  and avian species, the process of creating community access could begin in earnest.

Establishing Access & A Visitor Experience

The preserve, available on the Wildlands Preserve App , will also one day invite visitors to enjoy hiking, biking, bird and wildlife watching.

Carl Martin, Director of Property Stewardship, is thrilled to be opening the land to the public, “The unique scenery and diverse ecology on the property is amazing. I’m grateful to be able to finally share the progress we’ve made here with the community.”

The acquisition of a 72-acre tract of swampland with high-conservation value and acreage adjacent to Rte. 940 in December 2017 proved the final puzzle piece for public access to the preserve. Construction is currently underway for the parking lot there, with an expected opening by the end of October. Too, trail creation is in the works, thanks to help from local boy scouts. A connector trail from the parking lot to the habitat management area is planned to be accessible by the close of 2020.

Want to Learn More?

Watch the recording of our Conservation Conversation: The Hopeful Return of a Rare Bird. Here Carl Martin presents on the details of land stewardship and habitat management taking place at the Thomas Darling preserve.