WEST CHESTER — Chester County celebrated its “odometer moment” in December 2015, the date when the county surpassed 50,000 acres of land that had been preserved under its groundbreaking program of open spaces.
Last week, county commissioners announced another land conservation milestone: more than 30% of the county has now been preserved as open space. According to the County Planning Commission’s Protected Open Spaces Tracking System (POST) analysis, as of December 31, the county had reached 147,000 acres of preserved land. For comparison, this is the size of the city of Philadelphia – 13 times larger.
“We’ve been saying ‘almost 30%’ for a number of years, and now Chester County can confidently proclaim that 30% – in fact 30.2% – of our land is protected, preserved and will never be developed,” said the chairwoman of the commissioners. Marianne Moskowitz. “As the fastest growing county in Pennsylvania, it remains important to balance land preservation with land development, ensuring that growth takes place in and around our urban areas so that we can continue to connect patches of protected open space.”
To commemorate and celebrate this 30% milestone, and to share information about the county’s focus on preserving open spaces in the future, commissioners, along with staff from the Planning Commission and Department of parks and preservation, will host its Open Spaces Summit 2022 next month. ,
Commissioner’s Deputy Chairman Josh Maxwell said, “One of Chester County’s greatest assets is its open space. From rolling green hills to wooded acres and agricultural fields, there’s no doubt that preserving some of this land is important to the future of the county and its people.
“And we don’t stop at 30%,” Maxwell added.
The 2022 Open Space Summit theme – Farms for the Future – will highlight the county’s unspoilt farmlands and how they play a huge role in its economy, quality of life and sense of place. Specifically, the summit will draw attention to the local agricultural industry as a whole and the ways in which agriculture can respond to pressing environmental challenges.
“Farmland is a key aspect of Chester County’s bucolic heritage,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “Thanks to the wonderful partnerships that have been developed with our county department staff, members of our Ag Land Preservation Board, our farm owners, conservancies and municipalities, we are able to add thousands of acres of agricultural land preserved each year.
“In fact, of the 2,930 acres preserved last year, nearly half were agricultural conservation easements, which is one of the reasons why this year’s Open Space Summit recognizes the important connection to our community. agricultural.
Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding to deliver keynote address at Open Space Summit; other topics include regenerative agriculture and a summary of open space preservation efforts in 2021.
David Stauffer, director of the Department of Parks and Preservation, said in a news release that the county was the first in the region to officially set aside funds for a rigorous open space preservation program. “This program has become popular, not only for the green fields, conservation farms and community parks, but also for the partnerships with municipalities, farmers and reserves that have multiplied county investments in conservation lands.
“And in addition, Chester County’s conservation lands, parks and trails have proven to be real assets that generate economic value for the county,” he said.
The Chester County Open Space Summit will take place from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 at Springton Manor Farm. Formal presentations will begin at 5:00 p.m. and tours of the farm and its farm operations will begin at 6:00 p.m.
In addition to the summit, the county will be offering tours of preserved farms across the county on the first three Saturdays in May. These tours will showcase the variety of preserved farms and local agricultural products, and give residents a unique opportunity to tour farmland and learn about the value of agricultural preservation. These tours will be open to the public, but registration will be on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Agriculture is such an important part of Chester County’s economy and our network of protected open spaces, and we are delighted to highlight the success of our agricultural preservation program this year,” commented the new director. Sustainable Development of the Planning Commission, Rachael Griffith.
The 2022 Open Space Summit is open to all city officials, non-profit organizations, land conservation organizations, agricultural industry members, county partners, and members of the public. If you cannot attend the event in person, presentations will be streamed live. To learn more and register for the 2022 Open Space Summit and Farm Tours, visit https://bit.ly/ccopenspacesummit.