Relationship to State, Regional and Abutting Municipal Plans

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This Plan section evaluates the goals and recommendations of Lower Merion Open Space with relevant State, County and Municipal planning documents for consistency. While it is practice to perform this task after a Plan is prepared, in the course of preparing this Plan, all relevant planning documents were reviewed prior. As a result, this Plan is consistent with all of the documents listed in this section and many opportunities for joint planning have been identified.

PENNSYLVANIA

GROWING GREENER I & II – DCNR PLANS

In 1999, Governor Tom Ridge signed the Environmental Stewardship and Protection Act, commonly called “Growing Greener.” The purpose of this Act was to provide funding for “farmland preservation, state park and local recreation projects, waste and drinking water improvements and watershed restoration programs.” This $1.2 billion investment is the only one dedicated to the preservation of Pennsylvania’s environment and in 2002, Governor Mark Schweiker increased Growing Greener funds and extended them until 2012.

However the spending of these dedicated funds has been limited, due to economic shortfalls. In May of 2005, voters approved a $625 million bond initiative proposed by Governor Ed Rendell. This initiative, entitled Growing Greener II, is funded by tipping fees for land fills and combines the environmental focus of Governor’s Ridge and Schweiker with an economic stimulus package, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians.

Funding for programs has been dedicated in the following amounts:

  • $230 million to the Department of Environmental Protection to clean up rivers and streams; take on serious environmental problems at abandoned mines and contaminated industrial sites, and finance the development and deployment of advanced energy projects.
  • $217.5 million to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to preserve natural areas and open spaces; improve state parks, and enhance local recreational needs.
  • $80 million to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to protect working farms.
  • $50 million to the Department of Community and Economic Development to revitalize communities through investments in housing and mixed-use redevelopment projects.
  • $27.5 million to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to repair fish hatcheries and aging dams.
  • $20 million to the Pennsylvania Game Commission for habitat-related facility upgrades and repairs.

The goals and recommendations of the Lower Merion Open Space Plan are consistent with those of Growing Greener II, particularly regarding those pertaining to river and stream repair, open space preservation, enhancement of recreational needs, and the revitalization of communities through mixed-use development.

SCHUYLKILL RIVER HERITAGE TRAIL

The Schuylkill River Greenway Association, which is the managing entity of the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area, prepared a Final Management Plan and Environmental Impact Statement in 2003, entitled Living with the River. The mission of the heritage area is “to conserve, interpret and develop the historical, cultural, natural and recreational resources related to the industrial and cultural heritage of the Schuylkill River Valley.”

To this end, the goals outlined in the Final Management Plan focus on:

  • Resource conservation and enhancement
  • Education and interpretation
  • Recreation
  • Community revitalization
  • Heritage tourism

The goals outlined in the Lower Merion Open Space Plan are in direct harmony with those of the Schuylkill River Heritage Trail.

For more information: www.schuylkillriver.org/management/draft_documents.asp

PENNSYLVANIA GREENWAYS ACTION PLAN

Pennsylvania Greenways: An Action Plan for Creating Connections, drafted by the Pennsylvania Greenways Partnership Commission in 2000, calls for a statewide network of public and private partnerships working toward the completion of a greenways system linking every Pennsylvania community by 2020.

The plan recognizes the benefits of greenways including:

  • Preservation and conservation of natural, historical, cultural and scenic resources
  • Fostering public recreation, health and fitness
  • Promotion of sustainable development and sound land use
  • Provision of alternative transportation
  • Support of economic prosperity

The plan drafted by Lower Merion Township is in keeping with these basic principles and is intended to serve as Lower Merion’s part in the implementation of this statewide initiative.

For more information: www.dcnr.state.pa.us/brc/greenways/ gwplan.pdf

DELAWARE VALLEY REGION

DELAWARE VALLEY REGIONAL PLANNING COMMISSION

In 2002, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission published their report on open space entitled, Recreational Open Space Needs for the Delaware Valley. The DVRPC created a map demonstrating their vision for the Delaware River Valley’s open space network in the year 2025.

The open space component of the 2025 Plan calls for the following objectives to be embraced by the nine-county region of the Delaware Valley:

Environmental

  • The protection of woodlands and other upland habitat areas that provide an environment for the diverse plants and animals of the region
  • The protection of stream corridors and wetland areas that provide clean water for drinking, habitat for fish, plants and other wildlife, and recreational opportunities
  • The protection of unique natural resource features of the region that may represent a notable ecosystem, geologic formation, or habitat area

Recreational

  • The creation of connections between existing parks, streams, and woodlands to establish an interconnected network of open space in the nine-county region
  • Creation of connections between existing and emerging population centers to the nearest large park or other open space area and the regional network of open space
  • Provision of additional land for recreational activities, with those activities matched to the appropriate resource; i.e. environmentally sensitive areas used only for passive recreation
  • Recognizing that open space serves a valuable function for its visual aesthetic and offer opportunities for relief from the man-made world and connect people to the natural world

The objectives of the DVRPC are a direct reflection of the vision of Lower Merion Township, as Lower Merion’s open space network will be part of the Delaware Valley’s regional open space network.

For more information: www.dvrpc.org

DARBY CREEK WATERSHED CONSERVATION PLAN

Cahill Associates, and Campbell Thomas & Company created this plan for the Darby Creek Valley Association in 2004 in order to “develop a vision for the restoration and protection of the Darby Creek Watershed.”

The ultimate goal of the DCVA is to develop a 30-mile greenway, serving the many urban communities lying within the watershed of Darby Creek and its tributary creeks. Among those high priority streams identified in the plan are both branches of Indian Creek in Lower Merion Township.

The DCWCP lists ten goals, all of which are consistent with the goals of Lower Merion:

Environmental and Natural Resources

  • Restore stream and tributary corridors, provide riparian buffers, and protect and restore wetlands
  • Restore floodplain where feasible
  • Improve stormwater management
  • Improve development patterns, including re-development practices, to protect and/or restore stream corridors, maintain open space and protect ecological resources
  • Improve management of land activities that affect water quality

Open Space and Recreation

  • Increase open space and recreational opportunities
  • Identify and protect historical, cultural, and ecological resources

Administrative

  • Foster intermunicipal cooperation and involvement
  • Educate
  • Identify both long-term and short-term projects and “action-items” to meet these goals.

For more information: www.dcva.org/wnew.html

REGIONAL OPEN SPACE REPORT

This report, published by the Greenspace Alliance of Southeastern Pennsylvania emphasizes the importance of thinking about conservation of open spaces and green connectors on a regional level, rather than as a piecemeal effort by each of the 238 local municipalities located within the region. The report demands that communities adopt a sense of “regional statesmanship” acknowledging that their actions affect other communities and recognizing the benefits of an interconnected greenway trail system.

Based on the findings of this report, the Schuylkill River Corridor, which comprises the northeastern boundary of Lower Merion Township, was named a “key recreational and natural resource asset.” The Lower Merion Open Space Plan recognizes the need to protect and develop natural and recreational resources, not only within the township but also on the fringes and throughout the region. The township is cognizant of its need and active in its pursuit to communicate with neighboring communities in the achievement of this goal. This is particularly true of our relationship with the Schuylkill River and the other communities who are stewards of the river.

For more information: heritageconservancy.org/news/publications/pdf/ROSPR.pdf

MONTGOMERY COUNTY MUNICIPALITIES

As part of the Green Fields/Green Towns programs every municipality in Montgomery County is preparing updated Open Space Plans. Many of these plans have not been completed at the time this section was prepared. It is anticipated that this section will be updated as these plans are adopted.

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN

After an evaluation of the 1994 Open Space and Recreation Plan, West Conshohocken released a new Municipal Open Space Plan in 2005. The audit of the 1995 plan revealed successes and failures of the Borough to protect open space; the 2005 plan reflects the changing needs of West Conshohocken.

Stated goals include:

  • Establish the Schuylkill waterfront as a publicly accessible destination and connecting point to a new regional trail along the river.
  • Meet active and passive recreational needs of borough residents and workers.
  • Protect existing elements of the community that enhance its visual quality.
  • Protect environmentally sensitive lands.

West Conshohocken’s plan focuses attention along the Schuylkill waterfront and on the creation of pedestrian trails throughout the Borough and linking to neighboring boroughs and townships. West Conshohocken and Lower Merion Township have been in contact regarding that opportunity.

This greeway along the Schuylkill river in West Conshohocken near the Four Falls Center. The pathway may be connected to Lower Merion's Old River Road to create a multi-municipal recreation trail.

CONSHOHOCKEN

The Borough of Conshohocken lies north and across the Schuylkill River from Lower Merion. Conshohocken is currently in the process of formulating an open space plan and has looked to its surrounding communities, including Lower Merion for support, ideas, and possible connections. The Borough is currently updating its Open Space Plan with a major focus on regreening opportunities and exploring ways to relieve congestion on the Schuylkill River Trail. Additional draft goals include:

  • Undertake the greening of the Borough by planting additional vegetation as part of a streetscaping project in both the residential and non-residential areas within the Borough.
  • Identifying and working with the remaining undeveloped and underdeveloped property owners to preserve sensitive natural features and provide additional recreational amenities where feasible.
  • Working with Montgomery County to acquire properties that are deemed a priority for preservation for use as active or passive open space, or that are a culturally or historically important resource within the Borough.
  • Coordinating open space projects that extend outside of the Borough into Plymouth Township, Whitemarsh Township, West Conshohocken Borough and Lower Merion Township.
  • Teaming with local not-for-profit organizations to pool resources and attempt to leverage additional monies to create active recreation facilities.
  • Working with developers to create intelligent development layouts and incorporate new publicly accessible open space areas that link to other open space areas through trails, sidewalk connections, greenways or riparian corridors.

The Lower Merion Open Space Plan is consistent with the draft goals of the Conshohocken Open Space Plan.

UPPER MERION TOWNSHIP

In 2005, Upper Merion Township adopted a vision plan, entitled Vision 2020 to guide future planning and the creation of a comprehensive plan. This multi-page vision statement addresses issues such as lifestyle and character, economic vitality, parks and open space, neighborhood enhancement, resource stability, and transportation advancement.

Upper Merion’s vision for open space promotes the acquisition and dedication of three types of park and open space for passive and recreational opportunities:

  • Passive natural open spaces for wildlife preservation, historic and archaeological sites, and low impact recreational uses
  • Contiguous “greenways” that connect adjacent development patterns and natural features
  • Active recreational areas and park space that complement neighborhoods and business uses
  • Objectives listed for the implementation of this vision include the encouragement of open space regulations and incentives, the creation of a more walkable community, and the development of the Schuylkill River waterfront to maximize community access and usage.

Upper Merion’s vision for parks and open space is in keeping with Lower Merion’s vision. Upper Merion’s development of the Schuylkill river waterfront is vital to the development of the Schuylkill River Trail West connecting Philadelphia to Valley Forge along the west side of the river.

For more information: www.umtownship.org/Vision2020accepted.pdf

NARBERTH BOROUGH

Narberth Borough is located entirely within Lower Merion Township and the two municipalities are in many ways functionally integrated. Narberth and Lower Merion have been in regular contact regarding common open space issues and opportunities during the preparation of both plans.

Narberth open space focus is upon improving to its green infrastructure and pedestrian/bicycle environment and enhancing to its natural environment. These efforts are consistent with the goals and recommendations of this Plan. Several joint projects have been identified.

WHITEMARSH TOWNSHIP

Whitemarsh Township lies just opposite the northeast corner of Lower Merion across the Schuylkill River. Access to Whitemarsh from Lower Merion now requires travel through either Conshohocken or Philadelphia. The 2003 Whitemarsh Township Comprehensive Plan of 2003 offers insight to their goals regarding open space and recreation facilities.

Among these goals include several which are consistent with those of Lower Merion:

Open Space and Recreation

  • Land use is to be oriented to the preservation of Whitemarsh’s remaining open space, thereby maintaining the township’s traditional character, and preserving natural features and scenic landscapes
  • To promote the preservation and enhancement of significant natural features and cultural resources that are important aspects of the township’s environment and history
  • Building on the township’s land use goals, tracts of open space should be preserved, while parkland for active or passive recreation should be created and enhanced

Transportation

  • To promote solutions to existing road and traffic problems and encourage transportation alternatives to automobiles

Maintaining Neighborhoods/Economic Revitalization

  • To provide for a strong economic base within the confines of the township’s established character
  • To encourage a range of housing types that will meet the needs of the township’s residents, promote residential development in keeping with established development patterns, and ensure that the value of the township’s existing housing stock is maintained

This plan envisions developing linked greenways throughout the township via riparian corridors, woodlands and designated open space. These greenways include the Wissahickon Valley Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail. For example, in the riverfront industrial area, Whitemarsh is looking to preserve open space and develop a riverfront walkway, similar to the efforts of neighboring Conshohocken. It is possible for this path and others in Whitemarsh Township to be linked to those in Lower Merion by the use of pedestrian bridges.

For more information: www.whitemarshtwp.org

MONTGOMERY COUNTY PLANS

MONTGOMERY COUNTY GREEN FIELDS GREEN TOWNS PROGRAM

The Green Fields/Green Towns Task Force, which was created to continue the momentum built by the 1993, prepared the ten-year, $100 million Montgomery County Open Space Program and published the Green Fields/Green Towns Recommendations in 2003. This program, which has provided funding to aid in the preservation of open space, also required communities to update their open space plans. The Green Fields/ Green Towns Program stresses the importance of preserving rural open space as well as revitalizing urban communities with green infrastructure.

Among the goals of the Montgomery County 2003 program incorporated into the Lower Merion Open Space Plan are:

Open Space and Recreation

  • Providing recreational opportunities including trails
  • Preserving historic or cultural landscapes
  • Maintaining scenic quality
  • Conserving natural features

Environmental and Natural Resources

  • Protecting water resources
  • Shaping the form of land use and development

Economic Revitalization

  • Stimulating the revitalization of developed communities with green infrastructure

For more information: www.montcopa.org/plancom/PDF%20Files/Greenbook.pdf

MONTGOMERY COUNTY SCHUYLKILL RIVER GREENWAY STEWARDSHIP STUDY

This 2002 study published by Montgomery County and Simone Jaffe Collins, Inc. consulting, establishes seven goals reflecting common principles held by the county and its riverfront communities, which envision a connected greenway along the length of the Schuylkill River.

Goals include:

Environmental and Natural Resources

  • Preserve natural resources of the Schuylkill River Valley environment, while revitalizing existing riverfront communities in ways that respect the characteristics and qualities of the Schuylkill River.
  • Protect water quality, enhance natural diversity, and improve the overall aesthetic appearance of the river.

Open Space and Recreation

  • Provide access to the water and encourage recreation along the river in ways that minimize conflicts between river users and also protect the natural features and sense of solitude along the river.
  • Preserve important open space lands for passive recreation, riparian buffers protection, and protection of native species habitat along the river.
  • Conserve and enhance the cultural resources of the river corridor.

Economic Development

  • Promote sustainability and economic development in existing riverfront communities.

Administrative

  • Establish a cooperative framework for education, planning, and coordination between Montgomery County and its public and private Greenway partners.

The goals of Montgomery County Plan are consistent with those of Lower Merion Township.

For more information: www.pagreenways.org/db-orgdetails.asp?ORG_ID=320

View from Old River Road across the Schuylkill River.

DELAWARE COUNTY MUNICIPALITIES

RADNOR TOWNSHIP

Radnor Township in Delaware County shares an approximately 3-mile long border along the southwest corner of Lower Merion. The boundary runs along County Line road from Matsons Ford Road to Haverford Road.

Radnor Township updated its Comprehensive Plan in June 2003. The Plan entitled Making a Great Community Even Better contains updates of many its plan elements including land use, circulation, natural resources, housing, economics and business and open space. The Lower Merion Open Space Plan is consistent with the Goals and Recommendations of the Radnor Comprehensive Plan.

The review identified the following specific recommendations relevant to open space, recreation and natural resource protection in the Township:

Environmental and Natural Resources

  • Implement watershed planning principles as developed by the Darby Creek River Conservation Plan.

Transportation and Circulation

  • Bicycle Facilities – The Township should create an Official Trail Map to establish current and future bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use trails.

Open Space and Recreation

  • Create linkages to the regional trail system.
  • Recommended Actions - Collaborate with adjacent municipalities to coordinate and cooperate on trail and greenway efforts.
  • Recommended Actions - Consider a joint recreational plan with one of seven adjacent municipalities. The goals of this collaborative effort will be to identify opportunities for sharing facilities, services or programs that may result in cost savings and/or more efficient facility utilization.

For more information: www.radnor.com/

HAVERFORD TOWNSHIP

Haverford Township, which lies directly southwest of Lower Merion Township, has not updated its plan in many years, but they are in the process of working toward that goal. Township officials have indicated a willingness to explore potential open space linkages with Lower Merion.

PHILADELPHIA - PHILADELPHIA PLANNING COMMISSION

Philadelphia currently does not have an Open Space Plan, but is currently in the process of creating one.

PHILADELPHIA – THE NEW RIVER CITY

The City of Philadelphia has created a vision for the 21st century centered on utilizing its existing resources, the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, as natural environments for economic growth and recreational opportunity. The impetus behind this vision is to “bring the city back to the river.” The vision realizes that waterfronts are prime real estate and envision the length of the Schuylkill River and its vacant and industrial lands being redeveloped for residential, commercial and recreational purposes. The New River City vision is broad and is intended to reconnect Philadelphians with their rivers. Lower Merion shares this vision.

For more information: www.philaplanning.org/plans/newrivercity.html

Heritage Trail

This section of the Schuylkill river heritage Trail was recently completed in Philadelphia. This section on the eastern banks of the river connects Center City Philadelphia to the Art Museum district and beyonnd to Manayunk. In the next few years, the trail is expected to connect all the way to Historic Fort Mifflin.

SCHUYLKILL RIVER DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

The Schuylkill River Development Corporation was founded in 1992 with a mission to “achieve positive change on the river” as is focused on the portion of the Schuylkill River that lies below the Fairmount Dam in Philadelphia. The Master Plan for the Tidal Schuylkill River was prepared in 2003 by EDAW: Design, Planning & Environments Worldwide with the input of 44 public and private stakeholders.

The plan lists six goals in support of this mission:

Recreation

  • Promote greenway and trail development
  • Build public/private partnerships

Environmental and Natural Resources

  • Improve environmental quality

Neighborhood Maintenance / Economic Revitalization

  • Build strong communities
  • Develop a distinct character

Administrative

  • Provide access and transportation

The SRDC envisions a fully connected river trail from Fairmount Park to Fort Mifflin. The efforts currently being implemented in Philadelphia reflect the desires of Lower Merion. In both sections the Schuylkill River had been severed from the community by an expressway and railroad tracks. So far, Philadelphia has been successful at reclaiming the river for its citizens. Lower Merion wishes to do the same and would like to create a river trail that would connect to the trail in Philadelphia.

For more information: srdc.net/schuylkill/masterplan.asp

Old River Rd

Old River Road

MANAYUNK DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

Manayunk is a Philadelphia community seven miles west of Center City Philadelphia and directly across the Schuylkill River from Lower Merion Township. The Manayunk Development Corporation is a non-profit community development corporation that is creating a vision and development plan for open space, recreation and economic development along the Schuylkill River.

Over the last several months Lower Merion Township has been in contact with the MDC, as both parties recognize the benefits of shared planning, especially as thousands of new residential units are anticipated along the Schuylkill in the next decade. Lower Merion Township is working with Manayunk toward the joint economic revitalization of the Schuylkill River.

For more information: www.manayunk.com

EAST FALLS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION

In 2004, the EFDC released a public improvement plan for their riverfront district, recognizing that their mile-long stretch of waterfront was due for economic revitalization, as it is part of the Schuylkill River Hreitage Trail. For years, disinvestment and high-volume traffic arteries have severed East Falls from Fairmount Park and the Schuylkill River.

Lower Merion shares this vision of safer and more attractive pedestrian connections as well as reconnecting to the river.

CITY AVENUE SPECIAL SERVICES DISTRICT

The City Ave. Special Service District is a 2.8-mile long multi-jurisdictional district encompassing the boundary between Lower Merion Township and the City of Philadelphia. The purpose for the creation of the district was to reduce crime in the City avenue area, help shape the direction of development and to improve the image of the City Avenue area.

In 1999 the District received a special recognition award from the Pennsylvania Planning Association for a Special Community Initiative. In 2001, it received a Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence for building community partnerships.

Also in 2001, a Streetscape Report was released. The goals of the streetscape plan include:

  • Promoting the assets of the District
  • Reinforcing and unifying the image of the District
  • Improving the character and “quality of life” in the District
  • Create an environment in which diverse participants can help to realize the achievement of a successful, vibrant, and highly desirable community

Recommendations for “impact” improvement projects include:

  • Ornamental plantings at the I-76/City Ave. interchange
  • Upgrading the pedestrian bridge near Presidential Boulevard
  • Adding a monumental fountain with new fencing and planting at the Belmont Reservoir
  • Installing new pedestrian lighting

These goals and actions are directly related to making the City Avenue corridor more pedestrian friendly and visually enticing. Improving the urban districts of Lower Merion Township through greening and making them more pedestrian friendly is a major aspect of this Open Space Plan.

For more information: www.cityave.org/pdf/streetc6.pdf

GREEN CITY STRATEGY

In 1974 the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society proposed the Philadelphia Green program to support the development and care of Philadelphia’s green spaces including public parks and community gardens. In 2001, the Society was asked to be a consultant for the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative. The City formally adopted the Green City strategy as part of the initiative to fight blight.

The goals of the program were focused in five areas:

  • Greening Neighborhood Commercial Corridors
  • Neighborhood Parks Revitalization
  • New Community Gardens
  • Street Beautification Projects-”Garden Blocks”
  • Education and Training Opportunities

The Strategy is partner-based and recognizes the value of greening in its power to improve quality of life, economic standing, retain existing residents and businesses, as well as create a nice place to pass by or through. A significant part of the Lower Merion Open Space Plan is devoted to making these same efforts, particularly in the denser neighborhoods of the Township, which are currently lacking in quality green spaces.

For more information: www.pennsylvaniahorticulturalsociety.org/phlgreen/city_strategy.html

FAIRMOUNT PARK COMMISSION

Fairmount Park’s Strategic Plan, prepared by Younger & PROS in 2004, establishes strategies for better implementing the Fairmount Park Commission’s mission statement: “to preserve, protect and maintain the open space, street trees, natural and cultural resources of Philadelphia’s parks for the recreation and enjoyment of residents and visitors.”

Over the last 20 years, the Fairmount Park Commission has suffered from depleted funding sources, resulting in deferred maintenance and an overall decline, or perceived decline, in the quality of the park system. As such, their Strategic Plan is generally focused inward as they look to reinstate the image of the park system, Fairmount Park specifically, as a first class amenity.

Even still, the plan does acknowledge the need to coordinate with other agencies to “identify target communities adjacent to the park system for enhanced connections.” Connections to Lower Merion are possible where Fairmount Park West meets City Avenue and where Cobbs Creek Park meets City Avenue along both branches of Indian Creek.

For more information: www.fairmountpark.org/pdf/FPC_Summary_Report.pdf


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