Lehigh Valley Planning Commission
An open space system consists of several components, including parks, trails, natural areas, greenways, and farmland. The land is publicly or privately owned and may or may not be protected. Open space enhances a community’s aesthetic character and quality of life. The need for open space planning increases as the communities of the Lehigh Valley continue to grow.
To help communities plan and implement a park and open space system that their citizens’ desire, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) has published Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guidelines (1996). The document provides a park and open space classification system and describes the level of service (LOS) approach to providing park facilities to satisfy the recreation demand within the service area.
Over the years, Lehigh and Northampton counties have been diligent in their efforts to increase county owned park and open space acreages. Both counties have adopted funding programs to further this effort, the Green Future Fund in Lehigh County and the 21st Century Open Space Initiative in Northampton County.
In response to recommendations made by the LVPC, Lehigh and Northampton counties started major countywide park programs in the late 1960s. The counties and the LVPC have been actively involved in park planning, acquisition and development ever since. In 1971, the LVPC completed the first Regional Recreation and Open Space Plan (updated in 1980). Subsequently in 1997 LVPC staff prepared the report Lehigh County Parks — 2005 and in 2002 wrote Northampton County Parks — 2010. These reports serve as the official park plans for the two counties. A comprehensive update of our trails data was completed and a report was produced in 2009 and updated in 2013.
A greenway is defined as a corridor of open space, that may vary greatly in scale from narrow strips of green that run through urban, suburban and rural areas to wider corridors that incorporate diverse natural, cultural and scenic features. Greenways are a critical component of any landscape. They protect the environment, provide alternate routes of transportation, supply recreational opportunities, and connect natural and cultural areas to one another providing a linear resource for a variety of users. Connectivity is the defining characteristic that distinguishes greenways from isolated paths and pockets of open space. While individual parks, preserved lands, undisturbed natural areas and waterways are valuable resources in and of themselves, their conservation and recreational value is compounded when they are linked together.
Lehigh Valley Greenways Plan: A Regional Greenways Plan for Lehigh and Northampton Counties (2007) Cover Contents: List of Maps, Figures and Tables, Acknowledgements, Executive Summary Introduction (pages 1-11) Greenways Vision (pages 12-17) Greenways Framework (pages 18-26)(part 1 of 4) Greenways Framework (pages 27-36)(part 2 of 4) Greenways Framework (pages 37-46)(part 3 of 4) Greenways Framework (pages 47-56)(part 4 of 4) Greenways Plan (pages 57-67)(part 1 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 68-72)(part 2 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 73-78)(part 3 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 79-82)(part 4 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 83-86)(part 5 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 87-90)(part 6 of 7) Greenways Plan (pages 91-110)(part 7 of 7) Implementation Strategy (pages 111-126) References (pages 127-128) Map 14 - Lehigh Valley Greenways Plan
Lehigh and Northampton counties have some of the best farmland in Pennsylvania. This land is being converted to housing, commercial and industrial uses. Most agricultural areas of the Lehigh Valley are under intense development pressure. Lehigh Valley residents think preserving farmland is important. Voters in Lehigh and Northampton counties have strongly supported open space and farmland preservation bond issues. Farmland preservation efforts have mostly focused on agricultural easement acquisition by the counties.
Agricultural security areas have been designated in both counties. To qualify for the agricultural easement program land must be in an agricultural security area, which is created under voluntary agreements between the property owner and the municipality. Under the agricultural easement program the property owner sells rights to develop land for nonagricultural purposes to the county. The property owner continues to own and farm the land. Municipalities can preserve farmland through local zoning controls. To be effective these controls must exclude uses other than agriculture, farm residences and accessory uses in agricultural areas and they must curtail subdivision development. Effective zoning practices have not been popular in the Lehigh Valley.
The areas recommended by the LVPC for farmland preservation in the Lehigh Valley have the following characteristics: (1) a concentration of prime farmland as defined by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code and soil survey data, (2) concentration of properties designated as Agricultural Security Areas in 2004, and (3) clusters of farms that have been preserved for farming under the county agricultural easement program.