Montgomery Township Lauded for its Open Space Initiatives
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 27, 2015
Kirsten Werner, Director of Communications
610-353-5587, ext. 267
Media, Pa. – Natural Lands Trust—in partnership with the Montgomery County Association of Township Officials (MCATO)—honored Montgomery Township, Montgomery County, today with the County’s first “Growing Greener Communities Award.”
Regional land conservation organization Natural Lands Trust developed the award, which will be granted annually, to recognize a Montgomery County municipality that has engaged in dynamic initiatives to save land, steward natural resources, and connect people to nature.
Dulcie Flaharty, vice president of community partnerships at Natural Lands Trust, presented the award to Michael Fox, Montgomery Township’s Board of Supervisors chair, today at MCATO’s spring convention, hosted by Montgomery Township in East Norriton.
“In many ways, this award represents lifetime achievement recognition for Montgomery Township, a highly developed community that has worked tirelessly to assemble an interconnected green system, often below the radar of conservation advocates,” said Flaharty, who is also vice chair of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.
Montgomery Township’s remarkable assemblage of 13 municipal parks and protected natural areas make up almost 730 acres of permanently conserved land, almost 500 of which are managed as publicly accessible parkland. The municipality’s exemplary conservation, stewardship, and engagement efforts over more than a decade allowed their submission to shine within the strong group of nominated projects completed in Montgomery County municipalities. The review committee was unanimous in its decision.
In Montgomery County, municipalities and conservation-minded organizations submitted nine nominations on behalf of eight townships and one borough. The nominations highlighted initiatives undertaken in 2014, though several nominations noted that the past year’s work was many years in the making.
This year’s award committee members were, from Natural Lands Trust, Ann Hutchinson, senior director of municipal conservation services; and Peter Williamson, vice president of conservation services; and Beth Pilling, senior planner with the Montgomery County Planning Commission.
“Among the many excellent nominations, Montgomery Township’s stood out because it represented a long-time commitment to preserving open space and making it available for public use,” said Beth Pilling. “Not everyone is aware of the amount of protected parkland in the Township. The park complex is the result of a lot of planning over time, and its preservation protects the water quality of Little Neshaminy Creek, which runs through it.”
The park complex to which Pilling referred is “Windlestrae,” an expanse of more than 200 contiguous acres of open space between Stump and Kenas Roads, east of Rt. 202 and north of 463. On fair-weather days, Montgomery Township residents flock the recreational amenities at Windlestrae—pavilions; playgrounds; baseball and softball fields; tennis, basketball, and hockey courts; and even batting cages—to watch their kids play or to jog with their dogs along the trails.
Woodlands and fields separate the recreation areas; walking trails connect them. In 2014, the Township spent $330,000 to purchase a five-acre parcel across from Windlestrae on Stump Road, just north of Montgomery Elementary, with an eye toward creating a future access point to the park from the nine-mile multi-use trail along the 202 Parkway. Doing so would make Windlestrae more safely accessible to pedestrians and cyclists from Doylestown to Welsh Road in North Wales.
Securing parkland has helped the Township with one of its planning goals: creating a “preservation corridor” along the Little Neshaminy, from its headwaters within the Township to where it exits the Township at Lower State Road, according to Township Manager Larry Gregan. Trees shade and protect the length of Little Neshaminy Creek, as it bisects the park from west to east.
According to a report by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, development associated with growing communities within the Neshaminy Creek Watershed, which spans from the middle of Bucks County into Montgomery County and is part of the larger Delaware River Watershed, has made the Neshaminy Creek prone to flooding. Montgomery County has tried to reduce flooding by constructing detention basins, which catch runoff and hold it until the ground is able to absorb it; there are 62 such basins in Montgomery Township alone.
Since 2010, the Township has tried to increase the water-infiltration capacity of its detention basins, by adopting a simple “no-mow” philosophy. Rather than keeping the steep basins as mown lawn, which is time consuming for Township staff, the municipality adds a few basins to its “Basin Naturalization Program” each year. To date, 38 of their 62 basins have been naturalized.
According to Gregan, the Township spends about $500 per basin for a landscape architect’s assessment and signs that inform residents about the benefits of the naturalization program. One such sign reads, “This area has been intentionally left natural to promote sustainability and environmental awareness. This also helps reduce erosion, encourages infiltration, provides a valuable habitat for wildlife, slows floodwaters, filters out chemical pollutants and litter, and improves overall water quality.”
In a similar spirit, the Township’s Shade Tree Commission has funded the conversion of a dandelion-spotted field into a native meadow at the site of the Township’s Memorial Grove. In addition to increasing the field’s ability to absorb rainwater, the meadow’s three-foot-high grasses provide visual interest serve as a natural barrier between the site’s sitting area and a nearby housing development.
Said Growing Greener Communities Award committee member Peter Williamson, “We were really impressed by the broad scope of Montgomery Township’s activities. They seem to have absorbed the lesson that building great parks and stormwater systems does more than just meet the law—it produces a great community.”
Natural Lands Trust is the region’s foremost land conservation organization and is dedicated to protecting the forests, fields, streams, and wetlands that are essential to the sustainability of life in eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey. Since its founding in 1953, Natural Lands Trust has preserved more than 100,000 acres, including 42 nature preserves totaling nearly 22,000 acres. Today, millions of people enjoy the healthy habitats, clean air and water, bountiful recreational opportunities, and scenic beauty provided by the lands the organization has preserved. For more information, visit www.natlands.org.