April 25, 2017
Presented by: Christopher Washburn, Chairman, for the Open Space Review Board (OSRB)
Subject: 2016 Report on Township Open Space Program
We just completed our 14th year of North Coventry’s Open Space program. During this time we have made remarkable progress in preserving our Township’s character and high quality natural resources, many of which are recognized for regional and national significance. It is an honor that we are now frequently cited by the County and State for what we have accomplished.
Achievements During 2016
- The Township transferred its recent acquisition of 25.8 acres of the Devins’ property to the State Park Bureau to expand French Creek State Park. This Property has frontage on Cold Springs Road and a Township installed small parking lot which provides the first significant public access to the Park in our Township. It includes the headwaters of two tributaries of Shenkel Hollow Run and a spectacular view of the Schuylkill River Valley.
- The Township completed a formal agreement to subdivide and purchase 13.9 acres of woodlands between Cornerstone Drive, near Scholl Road and the Schuylkill River, and Valley View Road to expand a relatively inaccessible park on Shenkel Road to 26.5 acres with access from three roads. These parcels will include +2,640 feet of trails to connect to the existing park.
- The Township funded and completed a new perpetual Chester County agricultural easement on the 36.3 acre Kulp farm between Miller Road and Keim Street. The easement also includes 1,062 feet of the Coventry Trail which will connect the Schuylkill River Trail to Coventry Woods and French Creek State Park.
- The Township completed a formal agreement to subdivide and exchange 2 unused acres of its Bickel Run Park for 2 acres of a farm adjacent to Bickel Run. This acquisition will provide over 800 feet of frontage on Bickel Run and effectively complete the path of the Coventry Trail from near Miller Road to Hanover Street and to Hanover Meadows adjacent to Route 100.
- The Open Space Review Board actively discussed the possible preservation of 18 additional parcels in different parts of the Township.
- In recognition of the importance of the quality of the natural lands in our Township DCNR announced that the Township will receive $712,500 in grants for applications filed in 2015 and 2016. This includes $509,500 for open space acquisitions and $203,000 for development of Hanover Meadows. This is the third highest amount of DCNR grants awarded in 2016 to any town in the State. The Township received $448,919 in grant reimbursements from DCNR and Chester County for 2015 acquisitions.
- The Open Space Review Board presented and had a display at the Coventry Woods Festival on May 22. The Board received positive feedback, good suggestions and contacts not only from our citizens but also from residents of other townships. Seventeen parcels were identified by the public for possible preservation.
- The Township approved and recorded an Official Map giving the Township certain rights to implement proposed greenways along the Route 100 corridor.
- The Open Space Review Board made 1 recommendation at the request of the Planning Commission on a proposed land development plan.
- Chairman Washburn on December 13 gave a presentation at a meeting of the Federation of Northern Chester County Communities on the strategies and success of our Township’s open space program.
- The OSRB actively participates in the Hopewell Big Woods Partnership, the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative and the Northern Federation Regional Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan. These alliances are designed to preserve this region’s unique resources and create regional trail and tourism links between our Townships and nearby parks and attractions.
- Due to 2014 legislation, the Township authorized partial use of our Open Space Funds to care for land acquired with these funds. This enables the Township to initiate improvements and maintenance of existing parks that have been purchased with dedicated Open Space funds. Total spent for this purpose in 2016 was $38,496.
Our Overall Achievements
In May, 2002 the voters of our Township approved the open space referendum by a substantial 77%. Motivated and thankful to our residents for enabling our Township to preserve its character and natural resources, we have accomplished much in only 14 years:
- In the 14 years of our open space initiative, the Township directly or in partnership with others has preserved or has under agreement 1,451 acres of natural lands. This total represents 799 acres of forest and trails, 53 acres of active recreation parkland, and 599 acres of perpetual agricultural easements on farms. These totals include 89 acres dedicated by developers to open space as required by our township ordinances. To accomplish this, the Board negotiated 51 separate transactions for 82 separate tax parcels.
- The total value of all land preserved or under agreement in the last 14 years is $20.1 million. Since 2002 the Township has received $11.8 million in grants from the State, County and Federal governments and $4.8 million through land owner donations or conservation organization assistance. The net value paid by the Township is $3.5 million. As a result, the Township has successfully leveraged 83% of all acquisitions with funding from other sources. According to Chester County’s published record of grants in the 28 years since 1988, our Township in only 14 years has preserved or developed the second highest number of acres among the 68 municipal recipients and received the third highest amount of municipal grant funds since the County program began. Likewise, the Township in 14 years has received more grants from the 24-year history of DCNR’s Keystone Fund than any city or town in the state except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. This record demonstrates the quality of land in our Township.
- To initiate these purchases, the Township borrowed $3 million in 2003. Annually the Township receives approximately $600,000 in earned income tax for open space. As a result of these combined funding sources and grants, we have been able to fund our acquisitions and still reduce the original debt to $889,000. We currently have over $4,035,000 remaining in open space funds.
Enclosed are two maps that show (1) the land preserved before the 2002 public referendum and (2) most current map of Protected Lands 12-31-16 ESize (Also presented below)
We have accomplished much in only fourteen years. It is critical that we continue our efforts to preserve open space at strategic locations throughout the township. All citizens are encouraged to actively participate in meeting this objective. This can be accomplished with assistance from the OSRB by planning for their personal financial future as well as ensuring the preservation of their homestead for future generations. Together we will continue to fulfill our goal of preserving the natural landscape and character of our township.
Christopher Washburn, Chairman