Projects Will Be Part of 50-State Report
WASHINGTON — Just days before the release of a 50-state report outlining some of the country's most promising ways to reconnect Americans to the natural world, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today highlighted two projects in the state of Pennsylvania that will be included in the final report — representing what states believe are among the best investments in the nation to support a healthy, active population, conserve wildlife and working lands, and create travel, tourism and outdoor-recreation jobs across the country.
Landscape conservation and expansion of recreational facilities on the lower Susquehanna River and urban greening in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are among 100 projects nationwide that will be highlighted in next week's report — two in every state — as part of President Obama's America's Great Outdoors initiative to establish a 21st century conservation and recreation agenda and reconnect Americans to the outdoors.
The report is a result of 50 meetings with governors and stakeholders held by Salazar and other senior Interior officials to solicit ideas on how to best implement AGO in their states. These projects were identified for their potential to conserve important lands and build recreation opportunities and economic growth for the surrounding communities as part of close engagement with Gov. Tom Corbett and the state of Pennsylvania, as well as private landowners, local- and tribal-elected officials, community organizations and outdoor-recreation and conservation stakeholders. The full 50-state report will be released in the coming weeks.
“Under the America's Great Outdoors Initiative, we are listening to the people of Pennsylvania and communities across America and working with them on locally-based projects that will conserve the beauty and health of our land and water and open up more opportunities for people to enjoy them,” Salazar said. “My staff and I have been asking each governor for the most promising projects to support in their states, and we will do all we can to help move them forward.”
The two projects in Pennsylvania highlighted by Salazar in the forthcoming report are:
Lower Susquehanna Landscape Initiative
The Susquehanna River's 27,500-square-mile watershed covers nearly half of Pennsylvania and supplies 50 percent of the Chesapeake Bay's fresh water. As the longest U.S. river with no commercial-boat traffic, the Susquehanna is a popular recreation destination and important link to Pennsylvania's outdoors, river towns, and cultural heritage.
Investments in river access on the lower Susquehanna will further AGO goals of building youth and community connections to this resource, providing education and recreation opportunities, and enhancing networks of water trails.
As part of this large landscape initiative, enhancements are needed to Columbia Borough's Riverfront Park along the lower Susquehanna in Lancaster County. These enhancements will meet visitor needs and serve as a gateway to the river. They will also educate people about Columbia's historic connection to the Chesapeake Bay.
Completing a high-trestle bridge and five-mile section of the Manor Rail Trail will link to 23 more miles of trails traversing Lancaster County. In addition, the ongoing relicensing of major hydropower dams on the Susquehanna creates an opportunity for shoreline management, recreation planning, and access development.
The Susquehanna Greenway Partnership has applied for designation of the Susquehanna River as a connecting water trail to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enthusiastically supports the designation and the Landscape Initiative projects.
Pennsylvania's largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, are engaged in work designed to bring conservation, recreation, and economic value to neighborhoods that lack parks and trees. Philadelphia prioritized improvement of public schools and parks in underserved neighborhoods in the first tier of the Green 2015 campaign. In Pittsburgh, the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is targeting neighborhoods for a focused greening initiative and has raised considerable funds from the city and other local partners to implement it.
These tailored greening projects in Pennsylvania's two most populous cities will enhance outdoor-recreation opportunities for all age groups, make the cities more attractive tourist destinations, and provide underserved neighborhoods with the plethora of advantages parks offer. By actively engaging communities in the beautification of their own neighborhoods and by planting trees or teaching effective storm-water management techniques, this project creates a collective investment in and further enjoyment of outdoor shared spaces.
The report will also include potential actions by Interior and its bureaus to support the projects identified. In Pennsylvania, for example, the Department could provide financial assistance for improvements to the Riverfront Park in Columbia Borough and designate the Susquehanna as a connecting water trail to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
The Department could also provide Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with financial and technical assistance to support AGO-related projects of their urban-greening initiatives.
The Department of the Interior will work with each of its key bureaus — including the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — to direct available resources and personnel to make these projects a reality.
“The America's Great Outdoors Initiative turns the conventional wisdom about the federal government's role in conservation on its head,” Salazar said. “Rather than dictate policies or conservation strategies from Washington, it supports grassroots, locally driven initiatives.”
For more information on the President's America's Great Outdoors initiative, click here.
To view a map of the projects already announced, click here.