Kennett Township's sustainable development efforts making strides
● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
Kennett Township continues to be a regional leader when it comes to sustainable growth, and its recent efforts support it.
In his report given at the township's Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 18, township Sustainable Development Office (SDO) Director Michael Guttman reviewed the latest projects the office has been involved in, which include greenways and trails plans, linking the township to a transportation network, developing indoor agricultural initiatives, creating clean energy solutions and restoring local parks.
Guttman said that major parts of the Kennett Greenway are in the process of being developed, and include the trail around Pennock Park, the northern part of the Parrish Trail, a southern part of the Chandler Mill Road Trail, the historic Chandler Mill Bridge, Road Trail, the West South Street Trail and the Penns Manor Trail.
In conjunction with these developments, the SDO received several grants in the last few years from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC), the Pennsylvanian Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and PennDOT.
Guttman said that the SDO’s application for grant funding to develop the New Garden Corridor Trail, filed this past May was not accepted, and while no new applications are currently pending for the Greenway, the projects most likely to be considered for grant applications beyond 2020 are the Whittle Trail, the Chandler Mill Trail and the East Penn Underpass.
In other sustainable development news in the township, the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC) has initiated a feasibility study – funded by the DVRPC – to find a new connecting route from the Kennett Greenway to the Philadelphia Circuit, an 800-mile multi-use trail system that links from Philadelphia to towns and municipalities throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and beyond.
Guttman, who is serving as the township's representative on the project, said that developing the connection would provide a safe transportation route to other active trail networks (non-motor transport) and make the township eligible for additional funding for other Kennett Greenway projects.
This study dovetails into action taken by the township in 2018, when it completed an active transportation plan – funded by the DCED – that envisioned making the Kennett Greenway a hub of a larger active transportation network that included connections to the Philadelphia Circuit, as well as the Brandywine Greenway and Northern Delaware Greenway.
For the past several years, the township has been making progress on the idea of establishing Kennett Township as the world headquarters for the study of indoor agriculture that would be able to draw key stakeholders from the industry from around the world. Called the Indoor Ag Center of Excellence (COE), the initiative has been making regular contact with indoor agriculture leaders through its appearance at major industry conferences. It has also hosted several site visits, including a visit earlier this year from representatives from the Japan Plant Factory Association.
The SDO has also coordinated a feasibility study that was presented to the township by Penn State Professor Dr. Eric Stein. In his findings, Stein said that developing a center of excellence in southeastern Pennsylvania would be a perfect fit, given its proximity to the mushroom industry, its infrastructure and its proximity to major markets on the East Coast.
While the creation of a bricks-and-mortar center is a way off, the SDO has already established a virtual, internet-based center that has gathered interest from partners and potential sponsors.
The SDO has also negotiated marketing agreements with the Indoor Ag Con and Indoor Ag Tech conferences, launched an Energy Procurement Program, administered by its partner TPI, that provides vendor-neutral electricity procurement services designed to provide significant discounts to energy-efficient indoor agriculture facilities, including mushroom farms.
In addition, the COE created its own website (www.indooragcenter.org.) six weeks ago, that has already gathered 90 members.
“We're trying to help not only the local indoor agricultural community – primarily mushroom growers – but also bring in investment and technology from the green indoor agriculture industry,” Guttman said.
Kennett Township is also making strides in the area of clean energy transportation, and is a member of the Transportation Management Association of Chester County (TMACC), who helps steer transportation policies and technologies in the county. In November, Guttman attended TMACC's conference on Clean Energy Transportation, which included speakers from PECO, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Eastern Pa. Alliance for Clean Transportation (EPACT). One initiative shared at the conference are the efforts of EPACT to incentivize the use of electronic freight, especially electric trucks, which will reduce carbon emissions and could mean major changes for the local mushroom industry.
The SDO's recent land steward initiatives in the township included the seeding of 7.25 acres of native meadow grasses at Barkingfield Park, in order to restore the vibrancy of the meadow and increase its diversity and ecological value. The township's Community-Based Land Stewardship Initiative is also working with the Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) to create interpretive and entrance signage at the park, and at TLC preserves in the township.
Township manager Eden Ratliff said that construction on the historic Chandler Mill Bridge in the township is expected to begin in January and wrap up in early June. Closed in 2011 due to severe structural damage, the bridge will be re-opened as a structure intended for pedestrians, pedal bicycles and emergency vehicles weighing up to and including 20 tons.
The bridge will be restricted to motor vehicles, as well as the construction of appropriate signage, break-away or removable bollards and other devices to prevent vehicular traffic from using the bridge, but still allow emergency vehicles to pass.
On Nov. 5, 2014, by a vote of 2-1, the township supervisors passed a motion to authorize the township to take actions necessary to obtain the bridge from the county, which was authorized on Dec. 8 by the Chester County Board of Commissioners.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.