Bucks County Herald

Charles Meredith:

Planning brings rewards

Dear Friends,

Good morning. Lynn Bush, the former leader of the Bucks County Planning Commission and chief clerk, sent me an excellent summary of Bucks County’s Open Space Program (1997 thru 2017). You’ll want to read it.

Lynn started as an intern for the planning commission back in 1968 when I was a county commissioner. She was in graduate school at the time. Little did we know that years later, she would have become the executive director of the planning commission under Franklin Wood (first) and second, the chief clerk to the county commissioners.

Incidentally, the title “chief clerk” is an old Quaker term. The head of each congregation is known as the chief clerk; the head of all committees is known as the clerk of a committee. When Bucks County government began in 1682, the head of various county functions was called a “clerk.”

Although Lynn Bush was formally known as the chief clerk, in actuality, she was the most important employee of the county government. In my day, the chief clerk was also known as the executive secretary to the commissioners.

Two weeks ago, the county commissioners released the report of the 20-year Bucks County Open Space Program. It has been an amazing success. This program traces the roots of the preservation effort; the development of the 1997 and 2007 proposals that were resoundingly supported by Bucks County voters; how the program worked; and the results …more than 35,000 acres of farmland, natural areas, and parkland preserved. Lynn searched county files and clippings for this report.

Historians will recognize two names in land planning from the 1960s and beyond. The first of course was Franklin Wood who was the planning commission’s executive director during the 1950s through the 1980s. The second was John T. Carson who ran the Neshaminy Water Resources Authority (NWRA) in the 1960s through the 1980s.

The NWRA was controversial because it was financed through the sale of water to local municipalities and the Philadelphia Electric Company (PECO). The famous Point Pleasant pumping station drew plenty of criticism because the ensuing court case took 20 years to resolve. The NWRA project added hundreds of acres to Bucks County’s open space.

Lynn Bush was part of the Bucks County Open Space program from its start in 1996 until its completion last year. She was appointed by the county commissioners as a citizen member of the first open space task force and prepared the final report for the task force in 1999.

She became the executive director of the Bucks County Planning Commission and oversaw the open space program. She was a member of the second open space task force and helped develop the second 10-year program. Lynn has worked with many of the county’s municipalities on their open space programs. She recognized the importance of open space to Bucks County, her home for 47 years, to the local economy, the environment, scenic character, and quality of life.

Twenty- plus years ago, it must have been surprising when the Gallup organization concluded that Bucks County residents had a keen interest in keeping land open. Eighty-three percent favored spending tax dollars to protect farmland and scenic areas.

Yes, of course, development will continue. There is no way to prevent it. But sound strategy to identify, acquire, and protect land … matched by a strong public commitment … will assure that much of the land cherished today will remain open.

Here are the seven points of the task force recommendations: (1) Borrow $59 million over a 10-year period to fund the Open Space Program. Divide the $59 million among four areas: Farmland preservation; county parkland; natural areas; and municipal open space programs. (2) Allocate $13.5 million for agricultural land preservation. (3) Allocate $16.5 million for the county parkland program. (4) Allocate $9 million for the preservation of natural areas. (5) Establish a program to encourage and support municipal activities to preserve open space by allocating $20 million to distribute to local governments. (6) Design the program so county funding would be supplemented by matching funds from government and private sources. and (7) All open space preserved must be restricted from future development.

The planning commission assures me that the results will appear on the Bucks County Planning Commission’s website or if you’d like a copy now, you can pick one up at the planning commission office at 1260 Almshouse Road, Doylestown, 18901.

Sincerely, Charles Meredith


Copyright ©2018 Bucks County Herald, Inc. All rights reserved.