The Township last prepared an Open Space and Environmental Resource Protection Plan in 1995. This section reviews that document with particular attention to the degree to which the goals and recommendations have been implemented. Since 1995, Lower Merion has aggressively pursued several preservation initiatives, including the adoption of a Historic Preservation Ordinance in 2000. This section also evaluates the 1995 Plan in light of the Township’s subsequent preservation efforts and begins of process of identifying new open space, natural resources and environmental protection issues. New open space preservation issues are raised and addressed throughout the body of this 2005 Plan.
The Open Space Plan Committee, comprised of elected officials, open space stakeholders, Township consultants Natural Lands Trust and Campbell Thomas and Associates and Township staff, met in April 2004 to evaluate the recommendations in the 1995 plan and the degree to which the Township had been able to implement the recommendations. From this meeting it was determined that:
Natural Lands Trust, Campbell Thomas and Associates and Township staff updated inventories and mapping from the 1995 Plan and integrated this information into the Township’s GIS. Mapping from other relevant open space, natural features and recreation plans was also incorporated into the GIS database.
GOAL 1: Develop a shared vision of open space, which enhances the quality of life for all Township residents.
Accomplishments: In general, this goal was met through completion of the 1995 Open Space Plan; substantial public involvement (including monetary donations) and support of the acquisition of Rolling Hill Park; a monitoring program for open space in open space subdivisions with assistance from the Lower Merion Conservancy; and continued fine-tuning of the Open Space Preservation District and other natural features ordinances. The outpouring of public support for open space and recreation services in the 2004 Resident’s Survey verifies that Township efforts, along with those of local environmental education, conservancies, and other non-profit organizations are important to residents.
GOAL 2: Create an enhanced system of open space for the benefit of all Township residents.
Accomplishments: The 1995 Open Space Plan called for several short-term implementation steps, nearly all of which have been accomplished. Highlights include: purchasing Rolling Hill Park; developing an access and use plan for the park; completing the Mill Creek Open Space Network Plan; working with the Lower Merion Conservancy and encouraging landowners to dedicate or sell trail easements; completing an updated map of parks and other recreational facilities; and developing additional recreational facilities (Richie Ashburn Park).
Gaps: Although the Township maintains an inventory of parcels of five or more acres, the 1995 plan suggested that smaller open space sites should be inventoried. This was not completed. Additional playing fields (which require at least 5 acres of land) are still needed.
GOAL 3: Preserve the Township’s cultural, historical and environmental context.
Accomplishments: The Township’s award-winning historic preservation programs have been strengthened over the past decade, although threats to historic resources have intensified due to infill development pressure. Accomplishments include: development of a maintenance program for Township-owned buildings; design guidelines for historic districts; the addition of the General Wayne historic district; a historic preservation ordinance; a staff/consultant to assist with HARB applications; and creation of a Historical Commission. The Lower Merion Historical Society and Lower Merion Conservancy provide educational programs to residents.
Gaps: In spite of strong local tools and enforcement of historic preservation standards, demolition of historic structures occurs and is difficult to prevent.
GOAL 4: Achieve maximum protection of environmental resources through the creation of interconnected open spaces.
Accomplishments: The 1995 plan suggested a strong educational component. The Township is fortunate to have two organizations, the Lower Merion Conservancy and Riverbend Educational Center, that offer extensive education to adults and children regarding the Township’s natural resources.
Gaps: Many of the trails in Lower Merion are “informal,” located on private land and not protected by conservation easement. One new owner blocking a trail can eliminate connections.
GOAL 5: Exercise responsible stewardship of public and private open space.
Accomplishments: Lower Merion Township is one of the few municipalities in the Commonwealth to have adopted stewardship plans for natural resources. The Township adopted a management plan for Rolling Hill Park; an inventory of all Township owned natural lands; and, a staffed, stewardship/natural areas management program within the Parks and Recreation Department. The natural areas program is currently on hold due to budget limitations, but is expected to be included in the 2006 budget. The Township has also received funds and planted riparian buffers, the Ashbridge Park plantings setting an excellent example of responsible stewardship. The Township requires management plans for open space in new subdivisions. The Lower Merion Conservancy assists in monitoring these areas.
Gaps: Land Stewardship is an emerging field not understood by the general public. As an example landowners are often unaware that clearing and mowing to the edge of a stream increases erosion and lowers water quality. Private landowners need to be educated through multi-media education and demonstration projects about the merits of managing natural lands.
RECOMMENDATION 1: Creating a Linked Open Space System
RECOMMENDATION 2: Open Space Preservation Techniques
RECOMMENDATION 3: Parklands/Recreational Facilities
POLICIES AND METHODS FOR PROTECTING OPEN SPACE
Next Chapter - Community Profile
Previous Chapter - Introduction