ENVIRONMENTAL ADVISORY COUNCIL
MINUTES OF MEETING OF JULY 12, 2005
Approval of Minutes: Ms. Sciarratta moved to accept the minutes of July 12, 2005. Dr. Kaner seconded and the motion passed 4-0.
The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council met on Tuesday, July 12, 2005, in the Newtown Township Building. In attendance and voting were: D.L. McEachron, Chairman; Susan Sciarratta, Vice Chairman; Michael Kaner, Secretary Nancy Crescenzo and William N. Heil, members. Also in attendance were John Boyle, Assistant to the Township Manager; Jay Sensibaugh, Planning Commission Liaison and William Wert, Park and Recreation Director.
Call to Order
Dr. McEachron called the meeting to order at 7:35.
Approval of Minutes
Dr. Kaner moved to accept the minutes of June 27, 2005. Mr. Heil seconded and the motion passed 3-0-2, with Dr. McEachron and Mrs. Crescenzo abstaining.
Ms. Sciarratta reported that she had received a letter and a follow-up telephone conversation with Robin Hoyle of Wrightstown’s Environmental Advisory Council. She learned that Wrightstown’s EAC has a community supported agricultural project. This is a farm that community members buy shares in and reap the benefits of the yield. The farm is also used for environmental education. They have received a grant for solar panels for the farm, have created a backyard wildlife habitat and a deer exclosure. They have been involved in tree planting and trail building projects. They have also undertaken a project for naming streams and tributaries within the Township in hopes of applying for grants for stream preservation and restoration. They help the Township write and review some ordinances.
Ms. Sciarratta said that Wrightstown EAC meets the second and fourth Monday of the month, but has canceled their July and August meetings. She will attempt to visit one or more of their meetings in the fall.
Discussion of Possible Projects
Park and Recreation Department/Possible overlapping of projects
Park and Recreation Director Bill Wert was in attendance to discuss the ongoing work of the Park and Recreation Department and the Park and Recreation Board. Mr. Wert presented a printed overview of the Park and Recreation Department, which included its mission statement, its goals and objectives, an inventory of Township owned parks and open space, a list of grants received by the Department for trees, completed and current Eagle Scout projects, and a list of resources for grants for trees, conservation and open space planning.
Mr. Wert said that the Department had received a planning grant from the DCNR to develop criteria for identifying open space worthy of preservation. There is an inventory of open space within the Township but it has not been updated since the 1999 Comprehensive Plan was completed. This inventory is on the Park and Recreation Department’s Web site.
The Council briefly discussed whether updating the inventory was a project the EAC would like to undertake, but agreed that it would require extensive help from the Township Engineer and the Codes Department, and might be beyond their abilities. Mr. Wert noted that the original inventory had been conducted by a paid consultant with grant money.
In reviewing the grants received for trees, Mr. Wert noted that this had been started by Russell Strover when he was a member of the Park and Open Space Committee, and he continues to apply for these grants every year. As Township Naturalist, Mr. Strover also works with the Eagle Scouts on various clean-up and trail projects at the Clark Nature Center.
In discussing the Clark Nature Center, Mr. Wert said that there is a great deal of concern about damage caused by deer on the property. They have constructed a small enclosure to protect the young trees recently acquired through a grant, and to protect some 4-H projects.
Mr. Wert reviewed the ongoing work being done by the Department and the Park and Recreation Board on trail systems throughout the Township. There has been some discussion about connecting some of the Tyler State Park trails with trails in Helen Randle Park and with the Clark Nature Center. They have also looked at connecting trails from Tyler, through the Community College to areas in the northern corner of the Township. They have acquired rights for trails along the PECO right-of-way to help extend some of the trails.
Mrs. Crescenzo said she believes that use of certain Community College areas is restricted to faculty.
In response to Dr. McEachron’s question, Mr. Wert said that there are no plans for conducting sleepover camping events in the Clark Nature Center. There has been some discussion of possibly renovating the barn for an educational display center. Currently the Park and Recreation Department only uses the property for a few outdoor nature classes for children.
Mr. Wert said that he believed that the Joint Downtown Newtown Corporation had been involved in a grant application for restoration of the Newtown Creek,
Mr. Wert provided the Chairman with a packet of resource information on grants and left the meeting.
Mrs. Crescenzo expressed concern about ever using the barn on the Clark Nature Center, first because there is no funding available through state and federal agencies for a nature center so near existing nature centers, and second because the barn is unsafe. She expressed extreme concern about the condition of the rhododendrons on the property. She suggested that the EAC look into what is being done at the Clark Nature Center to protect the environment.
Dr. McEachron agreed to speak to Mr. Wert and Mr. Strover about the rhododendrons and other sensitive plants on the Clark property.
In response to questions from the EAC, the recording secretary explained that the Park and Recreation Board reviews plans for land development and makes recommendations to the Board of Supervisors about whether to accept dedication of open space or to accept a fee in lieu of open space. Mr. Sensibaugh confirmed that developers must still leave a certain percentage of their acreage as open space, but it remains privately owned if the Township accepts a fee.
Mr. Sensibaugh and Mr. Boyle both suggested that speaking to members of the Board of Supervisors or with Mr. Wert would be the best approach to expressing concerns about conditions at the Clark Nature Center.
Ms. Sciarratta said that she had nothing new to report. She briefly updated Dr. McEachron and Mrs. Crescenzo on the meeting she, Mr. Heil, Mr. King and Mr. Jirele had with Richard Albert of Delaware Riverkeepers Network.
Dr. Kaner reported that he and Mr. Heil had researched a number of awards given by Federal, State and Local governments to businesses who have shown environmental responsibility and sensitivity. He shared copies of a draft for a proposed “Ecostar” award, based heavily on criteria used by the state of Montana.
The Council briefly reviewed the description criteria and sample application for this award. They also discussed publicizing the award to attract applicants. They agreed to table further discussion until the members have had sufficient time to carefully read the suggested criteria. Mr. Sensibaugh suggested that the Council consider the number of awards they would want to give.
Dr. McEachron reported that Newtown Township’s EAC is not listed as a link on the Newtown Borough Web site. Ms. Sciarratta agreed to mention this to Mr. King of the Newtown borough Council when she speaks to him.
Dr. McEachron reported that in his research on urban ecology he noted that there is no work being done on this anywhere in Pennsylvania. He agreed to continue to research this for the next meeting.
Mrs. Crescenzo said that she is very interested in seeing the EAC get involved in stormwater management. She said that there have been recent changes in stormwater management requirements and she thought that the EAC should look into helping to monitor compliance with these changed regulations.
Ms. Sciarratta moved to adjourn at 9:35 PM. Mrs. Crescenzo seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
Mary Donaldson, Recording Secretary