Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Counties surrounding Lehigh Valley slow in creating greenway plans

The state had hoped all 67 counties would have adopted plans to identify and preserve greenways -- corridors of meadows, forests and other undeveloped land used for recreation and conservation -- by the end of 2007.

But several counties, including Carbon, Berks and Bucks, have yet to file Comprehensive Greenways Plans. The plans are expected to be in place by the end of 2008, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe, Schuylkill and Montgomery counties all have completed their plans.

Carbon County Commissioner Chairman William O'Gurek said his county is doing its greenway plan in conjunction with its comprehensive plan, which maps development, economics, traffic and land use.

''One of the concerns of all three commissioners is that open space and farmland is fast being gobbled up by developers,'' he said. ''We're very much aware of that. The county needs to have smart growth, and we think the best way to do that is to have a comprehensive greenways plan in place to guide government in making decisions in the future.''

Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Charles H. Martin said Bucks has had greenway plans of varying types over the years, including one that would connect county parks by acquiring rights of way to the land between them.

Bucks residents want safe places for recreation, and developing a Comprehensive Greenways Plan will provide that, he said. Residents want the greenways for recreation and for the scenery, he said.

The state is giving 50 percent matching grants, averaging between $50,000 and $150,000, to counties to complete the plans, which it refers to as ''greenprints for growth.''

O'Gurek said Carbon has applied for $72,950.

The program aims to establish a network of greenways that will link ''natural, historic, and scenic landscapes, as well as our cultural and recreational sites,'' according to DCNR.

''The whole theme of greenways plans is connections,'' Williamson said. ''Matching up trails, linking communities with rail-to-trail systems and connecting resources.''

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