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Chapter 8 : Swatara Creek Greenway
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Prior to the Swatara Creek Watershed Rivers Conservation Plan project being developed, the Dauphin County Department of Parks and Recreation had initiated work on a greenways project along Swatara Creek within Dauphin County. Concurrent with the county project, the Hershey Trust also initiated a study to develop a greenway along Swatara Creek for the property managed by the Hershey Trust. Both of these studies have since been completed and will be implemented in a manner consistent with the principles and goals of each lead organization. The plans have been approved for listing on the Pennsylvania Rivers Registry. As part of the River Conservation Plan for the Swatara Creek watershed, it was determined that the information concerning the Swatara Creek Greenway plans as well as their management options would be incorporated into the plan document.
The Greenway plan prepared for the Hershey Trust on the northern Dauphin County section of Swatara Creek, served as the impetus for the County’s plan on the lower Swatara Creek stream corridor. In October 1994, the first public informational meeting was held to inform interested persons of the proposed greenway projects.
Following this meeting, data collection for the project was undertaken by the plan preparers, Natural Lands Trust and Melham Associates. The preliminary findings from this data collection were presented at the first official public hearing for the project in January 1995. This meeting was utilized to solicit input from the interested public about the project area as well as inform them about the about the planning process for the River Conservation Plan.
Two additional public meetings were held in late January and early February to solicit input from the public about their hopes and desires for the Swatara Creek watershed, as well as any other thoughts or concerns regarding the watershed. Surveys were distributed at these public workshops to discern the opinions of the attendees as well as other individuals located in and around the project corridor. Personal interviews were also conducted with individuals identified by the project steering committee as being "Key Persons". These people would have opinions and insight to the project corridor that would be valuable to the development and completion of the Greenway/Rivers Conservation Plan.
In June 1995 the "Draft" Greenway/Rivers Conservation Plan was presented to the public. The public meeting presented the three-phase approach for protecting the lands adjacent to this section of Swatara Creek as recommended by the consultant and the Dauphin County Parks and Recreation staff. A period of public comment was also opened at this time to receive feedback on the proposed management options. After the close of the comment period the consultants and the Dauphin County Department of Parks and Recreation addressed and incorporated the public comments into the "Revised" Greenway/Rivers Conservation Plan.
The "Final" Greenway/Rivers Conservation Plan was presented at a public meeting held in April 1996. At this meeting the final management recommendations for the Swatara Creek project corridor were presented as well as a tentative timetable for their implementation.
The "Final" Greenway/Rivers Conservation Plan was circulated to the local municipalities for formal acceptance in May, 1997. A petition for formal inclusion of the plan on the Pennsylvania Rivers Registry was submitted to the state in September 1999. Final approval for the plan is scheduled for September, 2000. Copies of the Greenway Plan can be reviewed at the Dauphin County Parks Department (717) 599-5188.
The management options in the Dauphin County Greenway Plan were divided into three phases. In general, these phases present increasingly challenging efforts for developing the Greenway.
Phase 1: The first phase of the management plan is meant to be a starting point where the most easily achieved actions are initiated. The primary focus of Phase 1 is enacting municipal measures for the protection of the Swatara Creek project corridor. These measures would include enacting a stronger floodplain ordinance and use of conservation zoning along Swatara Creek. In addition, Phase 1 includes acquisition of four canoe access points, the marking of bike and hiking trails within the corridor on public property. The final management option in Phase 1 would be the reconstruction of the covered bridge at Clifton. Details of these plans can be found in the Swatara Creek Greenway & River Conservation Plan (Natural Lands Trust, 1997).
Phase 2: The second phase of the project encompasses Phase 1 actions and proposes additional protections and enhancements for the project corridor. These include development of individual municipality protections for tributaries and natural features located outside of the narrow Swatara Creek corridor. Acquisition of natural features of unique or exceptional nature for use as municipal park sites and continued acquisition of agricultural easements through the area is expressed in this phase. Phase 2 also proposes to expand the trail network initiated in Phase 1. This expansion is to include a hiking trail along the former Union Canal Tow Path wherever possible. Restoration of a former Union Canal Lock Structure and stream bank along the greenway is also proposed. Finally, the largest proposed management option for Phase 2 would be the acquisition of a regional park in and around the Swatara Creek Greenway. The Swatara Creek Greenway & River Conservation Plan (Natural Lands Trust, 1997) details the need and advantages of these options.
Phase 3: The final phase of the project is meant to build upon the successes of Phase 2 as well as implement any other uncompleted facets of Phase 2, whenever opportunities become available. Phase 3 expands upon the development of the voluntary easement program, for the protection of agricultural lands, detailed in Phase 2. During this phase, expansion outside of the stream corridor to include all of the large agricultural areas in the vicinity that may be interested in the program is anticipated. Likewise, the expansion of the conservation of natural areas in the study area via conservation easements is also seen as an important management item in Phase 3.
Biking and hiking trails developed in both Phases 1 and 2 will also be expanded as part of Phase 3 of the management plan. The extensions propose to connect the trails to features located outside of the stream corridor. Examples listed in the Swatara Creek Greenway & River Conservation Plan (Natural Lands Trust, 1997) include the Middletown Reservoir, Middletown High School, and the Old Reliance Farm located in Lower Swatara Township. Connectors to these areas are to be obtained through voluntary donations or subdivision negotiations.
Phase 3 also recommends improvements and possible restoration of the Union Canal and towpath, possibly leading to the restoration of a small segment of the canal. As stated in the greenways document, this is a very long-term endeavor. A final additional long-term endeavor included in the management options of Phase 3 includes restoration of the quarries in the project area. Although the greenways document stresses that the quarries may be viable for decades, it also recommends that efforts be made to allow utilization of the lands following the closure and restoration of them. Finally, the document recommends continued stream bank and riparian forest restoration.
Continue Reading Chapter 9 of the RCP
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