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Union County, Pa.

"Welcome to Union County, PA, a participating Green Community

Contact:
Shawn McLaughlin, Director
Union County Planning Commission
1610 Industrial Boulevard, Suite 100
Lewisburg, Pennsylvania 17837
Tel: (570) 522-1370

Introduction

Union County, Pa is the first county in the U.S.to be designated as a "Green Community". by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This designation is the result of a true public/private partnership involving the County, its municipal governments and school districts, local environmental organizations, the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau, local lenders and utility providers, and the citizenry at large. "More than anything else, Green Communities designation is telling the citizens, the governmental agencies and the non-profit sector in Union County that you are doing something right" -EPA's Susan McDowell.

For an update on Union County's progress, click here.

It began in March of 1997, with more than 100 citizens participating in a two day workshop, in Mifflinburg, PA. One of the major results of the workshop was the identification of "Sacred Places" within the Buffalo Valley and the mapping of those locations. At the conclusion of the workshop the participants themselves decided to undertake a grass roots planning process, beginning with community education, to carry forward the ideas which they learned during the workshop. A steering committee composed of 3 adults and 2 students was formed to begin organizing this process. This community education process stressed the need to change the way we allow our community to physically develop.

The ideas upon which this program was based; "sustainability", "preservation of sacred places", "developing a community consensus", and "creating a case study" for future activities of this type have all borne fruit. The participants of the program established their own citizens group to continue to educate their neighbors about sustainability, sacred places, and the need to plan. The County provided resources to the citizens' organizations in order to maximize the benefit of this grass roots education process. "It shows that we have found a way to work with our citizens in a way that helps promote our economic vitality while sustaining our quality of life" - Fred Wilder, Union County Planning Director.

Union County Planning Commissioners
Photo of Commissioners

Effectiveness

The Sustainable Communities Program for the Buffalo Valley achieved its immediate goal, which was local capacity building of individuals who had little or no exposure to planning in the past. The effectiveness of the program can be measured by the continued participation of at least 35 individuals, their formation of a speakers bureau and the commitment of 9 high school students to "spread the word" about the sacred places in the Buffalo Valley. It has gone beyond its immediate goal by having a positive impact on the planning, design and implementation of numerous projects in Union county.

This idea of "sustainability" prompted the design of "Great Stream Commons", the Union County Business Park, as a model project incorporating environmentally sensitive design, wide spread citizen participation in the planning process, and establishing a mixture of industrial, commercial, residential and recreational uses on this one site.

Union county also completed an "Agricultural Economic Plan" aimed at enhancing the economic viability of its agricultural base. That plan is now being implemented. The County has completed a county wide water supply plan, a well head and acquifer protection plan, watershed wide stormwater management planning as well as a growth management plan.

Union County's efforts to become a "Sustainable Community" are based upon the policy recommendations of Vision 21 - The Planning Document for Union County in the 21st Century. This plan views "sustainability" as emerging from a holistic approach to planning for the community's future which involves all segments of the community in a meaningful manner. "I think this is the greatest thing that has happened to the county" - Vallery Barnwell, Susquehanna Valley Visitors Bureau.

Congratulations to the Union County for its designation as a participating Green Community.

Background

Union County is located at the intersection of U.S. Route 15 and Interstate Route 80 in Central Pennsylvania - within one hour's driving time to Harrisburg, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazelton, State College(PSU) and Williamsport. It is primarily a rural county comprised of several small towns. Its total area is 318 square miles about 1/3 of which is owned by Federal or State Government.The population growth rate has been 1 - 1 1/2% annually since 1970. It has a diversified economic base. It is close to Penn State University and Geisinger Medical Center - the largest employers in Northcentral Pennsylvania. About 1/3 of the population is still employed in manufacturing. Agriculture and food processing (Chef Boyar De/Furman Foods) employ many others. The County boasts Bucknell University and a Federal Prison System made up of 7 institutions in 2 locations.

The Union County Planning Commission decided to participate in the Sustainable Communities Program for several important reasons.

Major Players
Photo of Major Players

Union County Sustainable Communities Initiative

Union County
Commissioners

Union County
 Planning Commission

Union County
Chamber of Commerce

Union County Industrial Development Corporation

Merrill Linn Land and Waterways Conservancy

Union County
Conservation District

Union County Agricultural
Land Preservation Board

Union County
Environmental Advisory Council

Mifflinburg Area
School District

Buffalo Valley
Sustainable Communities Group

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