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By Kathleen Ward, Conservation Coordinator
Way back in April 2019, the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor offered to host the 2020 Pennsylvania Conservation Landscapes Gathering. A natural step in its role as the external lead organization for Lehigh Valley Greenways. This event would bring together the seven Conservation Landscape representatives from around the state to share knowledge and best practices. We were hopeful to showcase our region to Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) staff, from Harrisburg.
But like all things in 2020, plans changed. So, we figured out ways to show this group the Lehigh Valley virtually and discuss successful partnerships and lessons learned.
On November 5th and 6th, Lehigh Valley Greenways with D&L staff members Claire Sadler, Deputy Director and Kathleen Ward, Conservation Coordinator, hosted an informative, two-day, virtual conference for nearly 50 conservation colleagues. Topics ranged from climate change on a local level to a panel of Lehigh Valley’s top officials discussing best practices for trail networks.
There was even a “Happy Hour discussion” highlighting recreation-based businesses. Steve Labrake, owner of Saucon Valley Bikes joined us to share his keen insights on how trails grow local economies. Our only regret is that we could not have that discussion while enjoying a Lehigh Valley microbrew!
Buzz was especially lively for the GIS analysis demonstration on riparian buffers. Presented by Kate Ebel, senior environmental scientist for the Wildlands Conservancy, attendees learned how to leverage data in their decision making.
“Kate presented very strong examples of how to make data-informed, science-based decisions without getting paralyzed by the data and moving forward with on-the-ground projects,” said Katie Hess, director of the South Mountain Partnership, representing the Conservation Landscape in Adams, Cumberland, Franklin, and York counties.
Despite the change of plans, the conference was a hit! Moreover, it fit in with one of the core values of the Lehigh Valley Greenways: building partnerships for a strong, green Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania.
Since 2004, Pennsylvania’s Conservation Landscape Program has been using place-based partnerships to drive strategic investments and actions. In particular, they drive action around sustainability, conservation, community revitalization, and recreation projects. These collaborations are found in regions where there are strong natural assets, sense of place, local readiness, and strategic investments
Local efforts of Lehigh Valley Greenways Conservation Landscape have been spearheaded by D&L since its start. DCNR tapped D&L to help lead Lehigh Valley Greenways because the National and State Heritage Area includes the geographic area. D&L also shares all four goals of the Conservation Landscapes program. These include: conservation, recreation, revitalization and education. Moreover, the D&L has a deep understanding of the power of partnership and collaboration. With these skillsets we create lasting outdoor experiences. As a result, these experiences drive stronger local economies, improved natural resources, public health and connections to the region’s heritage.