Milestone reached in open space preservation
WEST CHESTER » It was December 2015 that Chester County celebrated its signature “odometer moment,” the date when the county had topped 50,000 acres of land that had been preserved under its groundbreaking open space program.
Last week, the county commissioners announced another significant milestone for land conservation: More than 30 percent of the county has now been preserved as open space. According to the analysis of the county Planning Commission’s Protected Open Space Tracking (POST) system, as of Dec. 31, the county had reached 147,000 acres of preserved land. For comparison, that’s the size of the city of Philadelphia — 13 times over.
“We have been saying ‘nearly 30 percent’ for a number of years, and now Chester County can confidently proclaim that 30 percent — actually 30.2 percent — of our land is protected, preserved, and will never be developed,” said commissioners’ Chairwoman Marian Moskowitz. “As the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania, it remains important to balance land preservation with land development, ensuring the growth takes place in and around our
urban areas so that we can continue to connect parcels of protected open space.”
To commemorate and celebrate this 30 percent milestone, and to share information on the county’s focus on open space preservation in the future, the commissioners, along with staff from the Planning Commission and Department of Parks and Preservation will host its 2022 Open Space Summit next month,
Noted commissioner’s Vice Chairman Josh Maxwell: “One of Chester County’s greatest assets is its open space. From green rolling hills to wooded acres and farm fields — there’s no doubt that preserving a portion of this land is important for the future of the county and its residents.
“And we are not stopping at 30 percent,” added Maxwell.
The 2022 Open Space Summit theme — Farms for the Future — will highlight the county’s preserved agricultural land and how it plays a huge role in its economy, quality of life, and sense of place. Specifically, the summit will call attention to the local farming industry as a whole and the ways that farming can be responsive to pressing environmental challenges.
“Farmland is a key aspect of Chester County’s bucolic legacy,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “Thanks to the tremendous partnerships that have been developed with staff from our county departments, members of our Ag Land Preservation Board, our farm owners, conservancies and municipalities, we are able to add thousands of acres of preserved farmland every year.
“In fact, of the 2,930 acres preserved last year, nearly half of it was as agricultural conservation easements, which is one reason why this year’s Open Space Summit recognizes the important connection with our farming community.”
State Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding will provide the keynote address at the Open Space Summit; other topics include regenerative agriculture and a summary of the open space preservation efforts in 2021.
David Stauffer, director of the Department of Parks and Preservation said in a news release that the county was the first in the region to formally set aside funds for a rigorous open space preservation program. “That program has grown to be appreciated, not just for the green fields, preserved farms and community parks, but also for the partnerships with municipalities, farmers and conservancies that have leveraged the county’s investment in protected land many-fold.
“And in addition, Chester County’s protected lands, parks and trails are proven to be true assets that generate economic value for the county,” he said.
The Chester County Open Space Summit will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 at Springton Manor Farm. Formal presentations will begin at 5 p.m., and tours of the farm and its agricultural operations will begin at 6 p.m.
In addition to the summit, the county will offer tours of preserved farms across the county on the first three Saturdays in May. These tours will showcase the variety of preserved farms and farm products locally, and give residents a unique opportunity to visit agricultural lands and learn about the value of agricultural preservation. These tours will be open to the public, but registration will be on a firstcome, first-served basis.
“Farming is such an important part of Chester County’s economy and our network of protected open space, and we’re thrilled to highlight the success of our agricultural preservation program this year,” commented the Planning Commission’s new Sustainability Director, Rachael Griffith.
The 2022 Open Space Summit is open to all municipal officials, non-profit organizations, land conservancies, members of the agriculture industry, county partners, and members of the public. If you are unable to attend the event in person, presentations will be livestreamed. To learn more and register for the 2022 Open Space Summit and Farm Tours, visit https://bit.ly/ccopenspacesummit.