Daily Local News: West Pikeland honored by NLT for open-space work
Friday, March 13, 2015
By Michael P. Rellahan
Those associated with an award given to Chester County municipalities that work to preserve open space within their boundaries said the efforts have a relatively less well-known benefit — adding to the favorable economic climate found throughout the county.
This week, Natural Lands Trust, acting in partnership with the Chester County Association of Township Officials (CCATO), named West Pikeland the county’s second annual Growing Greener Communities Award.
The award recognizes a Chester County municipality that has engaged in a dynamic initiative designed to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature, according to a press release issued by the land trust, headquartered in Delaware County.
“Chester County’s communities have been true leaders in open space preservation, smart growth, and sustainable environmental policy,” said Molly Morrison, president of Natural Lands Trust. “We wanted to recognize the excellent work happening at a township level and celebrate the dedicated officials, staff, and volunteers who make it possible.”
Ted Gacomis, board member for West Pikeland Land Trust, accepted the award on behalf of the township alongside Board of Supervisors’ Chairman Ernie Holling at the CCATO spring conference, held at the Desmond Hotel in Malvern.
In an interview Friday, Holling expressed gratitude for the honor, and noted how the township’s efforts at preservation have dovetailed with the county’s new economic development model, VISTA 2025.
“Obviously we are pleased that CCATO and NLT chose to honor the efforts we’ve made over the years,” Holling said from his office in Exton, adding that the state Senate and House of Representatives had made note of the award as well. “The county’s new economic development strategy, VISTA 2025, emphasizes the importance of protecting our county’s quality of place. Our work is consistent with that plan.”
“A commitment to investing in the county’s beautiful natural areas, which the residents of West Pikeland Township exemplify, will be critical to Chester County’s continued economic and cultural vitality,” Holling said.
This year’s review committee — made up of CCATO officers — found multiple strong contenders among the nominees, but ultimately determined that West Pikeland should be recognized for its recent conservation efforts, according to the NLT release.
“West Pikeland spent almost $6 million dollars preserving trails, historic sites, and acquiring a park,” said David M. Connors, a review committee member from London Grove. “That type of monetary commitment, for me, gave the edge to West Pikeland.”
West Pikeland’s qualifying projects (which had to occur in 2014, though they could be part of an ongoing initiative) included the purchase of a trail easement on 27 private acres along Street Road, which the township had identified as a Priority Scenic Roadway in its Conservation and Open Space plans. The property sits on a ridge top and offers panoramic views of open fields. The easement will enable the Township to connect Natural Lands Trust’s Binky Lee Preserve to the north and the Township’s Pine Creek Park to the south by trail.
Holling also pointed to the work the township did in 2014 on the White farm, a 67-acre property that the township bought in 2013 for $5.2 million. The future park is the largest parcel the township has ever purchased with its Open Space funds, and last year it hired a landscape architect to begin making the park a reality.
Approximately one third of the park will be used for active recreation, including field and court games, and the remaining two-thirds will have two miles of walking paths for passive recreation. The park’s trail system also will provide access to the Mill at Anselma, a National Historic Landmark.
To date, the township has received $2.5 million in grants for the park’s development.
According to the NLT release, the township established the all-volunteer West Pikeland Land Trust in 1999. The trust was instrumental in rallying residents’ support for an open-space tax referendum, which residents approved in 2007. Since then, tax revenue earmarked to support open-space protection in the township has generated between $500,000 and $600,000 each year. The ability to commit significant local funds to open-space projects has made West Pikeland eligible for grant funding through state and county programs.
“Protecting this landscape from future development was strategic to preserving the rural character and scenic views that West Pikeland residents value,” said Curt Grogan, West Pikeland Land Trust’s vice president.
“We’re proud of the leadership of West Pikeland for their vision to create the West Pikeland Land Trust 15 years ago to advance an open-space agenda in the township,” said Michael Groman, president of West Pikeland Land Trust. “We’re also grateful to the current board of supervisors and residents of West Pikeland Township for their ongoing support and commitment to open space as part of a vital and healthy West Pikeland community.”