Land Revitalization Spring '07 Newsletter – Making the Lorax Proud in Lancaster County, PA
I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.
So states the fictional Lorax, in the first of several environmental lectures he delivers in the eponymous children's book written by Dr. Suess in 1971. Thirty-five years later, the Lorax most certainly would be pleased with what will become of the Grace Lease property in Manor Township, Pennsylvania.
This 25-acre, wooded property sits above the banks of the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County. Previously owned by a railroad company and then a private citizen, it sat idle and neglected for a good part of the last century, allowing invasive plant species to flourish. Located close to a landfill, the property also became a magnet for illegal dumping and misuse. Nonetheless, "we were always interested in it," says Ralph Goodno, President and CEO of the Lancaster County Conservancy.
Located adjacent to the popular Turkey Hill Trail, the Grace Lease site would make a logical addition to the Conservancy's network of properties. With encouragement from Manor Township and Lancaster County, the Conservancy commissioned a Phase I environmental site assessment. When the Phase I indicated a recognized environmental condition (REC), the Conservancy turned to the Lancaster County Land Recycling Steering Committee for guidance and assistance. The Steering Committee quickly agreed to help, using site characterization funds from a U.S. EPA grant awarded in 2003 to the Lancaster County Planning Commission.
"This was a milestone for us," said Mary Gattis-Schell, the County Land Recycling Coordinator. "It was the first time that we've used our EPA Brownfields grant funds to partner with the Lancaster County Conservancy. And I think it reflects a growing understanding of the need for rural land and open space as a balance to the increasing density in our urban areas."
The Steering Committee directed their environmental consultant to investigate a small unregulated solid waste disposal area on the Grace Lease property. A limited Phase II environmental assessment - soil screening and sampling - was completed in December, 2005, and showed no contaminants exceeding residential statewide health standards.
With environmental questions resolved, and with financial contributions from a bevy of partners (the County, the Township, Turkey Hill Dairy, a private foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources), the Conservancy purchased the land.
What's next? According to Goodno, an intense effort to "reconstruct some ecological integrity" at the property by removing invasives and reforesting. And while these improvements will clearly benefit the flora and fauna onsite, the hiking trail with its breathtaking views will bring years of enjoyment to those of us who can only visit, creating a perfect balance between habitat restoration and public accessibility.
The Lorax most certainly would be proud.
Want more on the Lancaster County Conservancy? Visit: www.lancasterconservancy.org
Interested in other brownfields redevelopment efforts in Lancaster County, PA? Visit: http://www.co.lancaster.pa.us/planning/
Article contributed by Andrew Kreider