The Phoenix

Milestone reached in open space preservati­on

- By Michael P. Rellahan

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, visit­esummit.

 ?? MEDIANEWS GROUP ?? About 300people attended an Open Space Summit in Newlin Township recently to hear the success of Chester County’s land preservati­on program.
MEDIANEWS GROUP About 300people attended an Open Space Summit in Newlin Township recently to hear the success of Chester County’s land preservati­on program.

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