The Conservancy is a 50+ acre property adjacent to F&M's sports fields at Baker Campus, one mile north-west of the main college campus on Harrisburg Pike. The Conservancy is bounded on the north by a railway line, on the west by the Little Conestoga Creek, on the south by suburban development, and on the east by the sports fields. Secondary forest, grasslands, and wetlands form the basis of the Conservancy's ecosystems.
Franklin & Marshall College purchased the land in 1980 and it was designated as the Spalding Conservancy in 2013. It has a varied land use history beginning with Pre-European forests and Native American settlements. Paleo-Indians arrived in Pennsylvania between 20,000 and 12,000 years ago. During the Woodland Period (1000 B.C. to 1600 A.D.), the Lancaster area was inhabited by the Shenks Ferry Native Americans. At the time of European contact, the area was occupied by the Susquehannock people, also referred to as the Conestoga Indians.
By 1720 most of Lancaster County was settled by Europeans and the Baker Campus area was farmed until 1920. Osage Orange hedgerow trees still mark former farm boundaries, and the remains of a lime kiln recalls lime burning for agricultural and other uses. From 1920-1980, the Lancaster Brickworks company used local clay to produce bricks on the site. Numerous industrial buildings were erected and waste bricks can still be found throughout parts of the Conservancy. The land's uneven topography reflects the location of former clay pits, some later filled with municipal waste from Lancaster City.
By the late 1970s much of the brickmaking work was finished and most of the buildings were leveled. Natural vegetation was allowed to grow up and has since covered the property. Small streams feed the wetland area, and the College expanded the wetlands in 2013, adding a boardwalk system to facilitate their study in both teaching and research.
The Spalding Conservancy property has been used in F&M College coursework and research since the 1980s, primarily by faculty in the Biology and Earth and Environment departments. The Art and Art History Department has also used the site for outdoor sculpture class projects. It is a natural laboratory for observing and interpreting land use change, hydrology, flora and fauna studies, and geological processes, as well as an ideal site for focusing discussions about land preservation, conservation, native versus introduced species, and a myriad of other topics across a range of disciplines.