Pike County goes for the greenway

Protects natural resources to preserve quality of life

By SANDY LONG

PIKE COUNTY, PA — Pennsylvania’s fastest growing county is taking proactive measures to preserve its most precious natural resources and rural character. In conjunction with the county’s recent approval of its updated comprehensive plan, an Open Space, Greenways and Recreation Plan is nearing completion.

Among other things, the plan seeks to identify and establish county green-ways, or corridors that conserve natural areas, and provide people with recreation and transportation opportunities while preserving habitat for the county’s flora and fauna.

“Greenways will become one of the commonwealth’s most powerful tools to achieve sustainable growth and livable communities,” according to Pennsylvania’s Department of Natural Resources (DCNR). The agency oversees the statewide development of county greenways and open space network planning. As such, it encourages the establishment of greenways networks that will connect the state’s open space, natural landscape features, scenic, cultural, historic and recreational sites, and urban and rural communities.

According to Jeannette McBryan, Pike County Community and Natural Resource Planner, “Pike County’s plan ‘Growing . . . Naturally,’ will be in accordance with the commonwealth’s direction for county planning efforts” which encourages the development of greenway plans linked with conservation, community revitalization and economic development programs.

McBryan, who is project manager for the plan, said that during the past year, regional focus group meetings have been conducted to gain local perspectives. “These forums are an opportunity for municipal officials and the public to voice issues and concerns related to their open space and recreation resources,” said McBryan. Work will continue over the next six months to produce recommendations and objectives for the plan, provide opportunities for the regional focus groups and the public to review these, and assist the planning team in refining the plan’s direction.

Among Pike’s proposed planning goals is to identify and protect open space areas of environmental, scenic and recreational value; identify linkages among those open space areas and develop methods to protect those connections; provide resources to protect the recreational needs of the county; foster awareness of the rural environment through outreach and education; and encourage conservation planning and development.

McBryan added, “Pike County’s planning efforts will help ensure our undeveloped resources are recognized, provide a means to protect these lands and address recreation needs of our citizens.”

Greenways typically protect natural, cultural and scenic resources, provide recreational benefits, enhance natural beauty and quality of life and stimulate economic development opportunities.

Among the many benefits cited by DCNR in its study of PA greenways are these: “Greenways connect neighborhoods and communities, connect wildlife with habitat corridors, protect open space, provide opportunities for outdoor recreation, increase economic development opportunities, and serve to increase environmental awareness. Greenways also provide important value to the health, well being and aesthetic needs of human communities and are vital to the function of ecosystems.”

Many greenway plans incorporate historic and cultural resources, as well as protect farmlands and other rural characteristics by guiding development in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable. Their planning and implementation require the cooperation of various constituents, who often form partnerships in their commitment to the projects.

Developing such networks can allow people to pursue alternative means of transportation by utilizing trails to walk or bike to nearby work or shopping areas, thereby reducing automobile use and increasing physical fitness levels. Preserving plants and land improves air and water quality, while conserving scenic resources.

Greenways are not limited to land and water trails, but, as in the example of riparian buffers, can also be designed for the purpose of environmental protection rather than human use.

Steve Vitale, chairman of the citizen-based Countywide Study Committee working on Pike County’s Open Space, Greenways and Recreation Plan, derives his commitment to the project from experiences in his past. “Thirty-five years ago, I lived in an area that looked much like Pike County today. After seeing first hand the impact of development and growth, I gained an appreciation for the importance of smart planning that respects the natural beauty of an area. Pike County offers so much to us in the way of natural beauty, it just makes sense to preserve some of that for future generations.”

For additional information contact the Pike County Planning Office at pikepa.org or call 570/226-6294. To learn more about PA’s statewide greenways efforts, see www.pagreenways.org. Visit www.nypca.org/index.shtml and www.gardenstategreenways.org/ for information on neighboring states and their greenways initiatives.

Contributed photo
Michelle Brummer, left, environmental planner from the consulting firm Gannett Fleming, and Steve Vitale, chairman of the citizen-based Countywide Study Committee working on Pike County’s Open Space, Greenways and Recreation Plan, presented information at a public session held in December 2006. (Click for larger version)