WESTERN CHESTER – In December 2015, Chester County celebrated its landmark “odometer moment,” a date when the county exceeded 50,000 acres of land that had been preserved as part of its pioneering space program.
Last week, the county commissioners announced another significant milestone in land conservation: more than 30 percent of the county is now preserved as an open space. According to an analysis of the Protected Open Space Tracking System (POST) of the county planning commission, as of December 31, the county had reached 147,000 hectares of preserved land. For comparison, this is the size of the city of Philadelphia – 13 times larger.
“We’ve been talking ‘almost 30 per cent’ for a number of years, and now Chester County can say with confidence that 30 per cent – in fact 30.2 per cent – of our land is protected, preserved and will never be developed,” the chair said. “As the fastest-growing county in Pennsylvania, it remains important to balance land conservation with land development, ensuring that growth occurs in and around our urban areas so that we can continue to connect protected open spaces.”
To mark and mark this 30 percent milestone, and to share information about the county’s commitment to open space in the future, the commissioners, along with staff from the Planning Commission and the Department of Parks and Conservation, will hold a 2022 Open Space Summit next month. ,
Vice-Commissioner Josh Maxwell said: “One of Chester County’s greatest assets is open space. From green hills to wooded acres and farmland, there is no doubt that conserving part of this land is important for the future of the county and its residents.
“And we don’t stop at 30 percent,” Maxwell added.
The theme of the 2022 Open Space Summit – Farms for the Future – will highlight the county’s preserved agricultural lands and how they play a major role in the economy, quality of life and sense of place. In particular, the summit will draw attention to the local agricultural sector in general and the ways in which agriculture can respond to pressing environmental issues.
“Pharmland is a key aspect of Chester County’s bucolic heritage,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “Thanks to the huge partnerships we have established with the staff of our county departments, members of our Ag Lands Conservation Council, owners of our farms, conservation organizations and municipalities, we can add thousands of hectares of preserved farmland each year.
“In fact, of the 2,930 acres preserved last year, almost half were as agricultural easements, which is one of the reasons why this year’s Open Space Summit recognizes an important link with our farming community.”
Secretary of State for Agriculture Russell Redding will deliver a keynote address at the Open Space Summit; other topics include renewable agriculture and a summary of open space conservation efforts in 2021.
David Staufer, director of the Department of Parks and Conservation, said in a press release that the county was the first in the region to officially allocate funds for a rigorous open space conservation program. “This program has become valued not only for green fields, preserved farms and public parks, but also for partnerships with municipalities, farmers and conservation organizations that have repeatedly used the county’s investments in protected lands.
“And in addition, the protected lands, parks and trails of Chester County have proved to be real assets that create economic value for the county,” he said.
On Tuesday, May 10, the Chester County Open Space Summit will be held at Springton Manor Farm from 4pm to 7pm. Solemn presentations will start at 5 pm, and tours of the farm and its agricultural activities will start at 6 pm.
In addition to the summit the county will offer guided tours of the county’s first three Saturdays in May. These tours will showcase the diversity of preserved farms and agricultural products locally, and give residents a unique opportunity to visit farmland and learn about the value of preserving agriculture. These tours will be open to the public, but registration will be on first arrival.
“Agriculture is such an important part of Chester County’s economy and our network of protected open spaces, and we are delighted to celebrate the success of our agricultural conservation program this year,” commented Rachel Griffith, new Director of the Planning Commission.
The 2022 Open Space Summit is open to all municipal officials, nonprofits, land conservation organizations, representatives of the agricultural industry, county partners and members of the public. If you are unable to attend the event in person, the presentations will be broadcast live. To learn more and register for the Open Space Summit and Farm Tours 2022, visit https://bit.ly/ccopenspacesummit.