Clean Water for a Healthy & Thriving Economy in Pennsylvania

Apr 20, 2023 | Clean Water Fund, Feature Article, News

Community Partners Join Together to Restore Lancaster’s Green Spaces

Since the COVID-19 pandemic Lancastrians have come to appreciate outdoor recreation as an essential activity to living a long and healthy life. As a community we learned how taking a walk in the park, riding our bikes along the trail, and fishing with our families kept us healthy, happy, and sane. But not many know that PA’s publicly-funded green spaces also provide 14 Billion dollars in revenue to PA’s economy, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Outdoor Recreation.  For our communities to fully utilize recreational spaces for both social and economic benefits, Lancaster’s ability to protect and clean our waterways is the first step to maintaining a bustling outdoor recreational economy and a healthy community. 

Clean water gives life to our public parks, trails, and recreational spaces. From Conoy to Caernarvon township, or from Climbers Run Preserve to Eshelman Run, clean water is central to wildlife, recreation, and tourist retention. And although these green spaces are appreciated by residents and tourists alike, the waterways beyond the boundaries of outdoor recreational spaces have become polluted from stormwater that runs from residential and agriculture areas.

Unfortunately, this has led to half of Lancaster’s waterways being considered “impaired” under the Clean Water Act, which means that the county does not meet water quality standards that protect public health. Some of the most common reasons why the county has failed to meet water quality standards are sediment pollution and excessive nitrogen and phosphorus levels.

Thankfully, best management practices from the Lancaster Countywide Action Plan are in place to help address the concerns that threaten our waterways. Due to the restoration plan and the members of Lancaster Clean Water Partners (the Partners), the county is progressing to cleaner streams. Partners like Donegal Trout Unlimited (DTU), Lancaster Conservancy, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), and many more, are just a few of the local community organizations who have advocated for cleaner water, transformed green spaces, and restored streams in Lancaster. These coveted outdoor recreational spaces, like those along Climbers Run, are just one of the many outdoor spaces that are affected by surrounding poor watershed conditions.

“It takes several years and commitment from volunteers, landowners, municipality leaders, and farmers to execute complex stream restoration projects,” quoted Lydia Martin, who serves as a Conservation Committee volunteer from Donegal Trout Unlimited, a non-profit who’s mission is to protect, reconnect, restore, and sustain cold water fisheries, and their watersheds in streams like Climbers Run. 

As a leader in the sector over the years, Donegal Trout Unlimited has been at the center of many stream restoration initiatives in the area, including their recent project along Climbers Run, and others projects that have helped to rebuild healthy ecosystems in streams all over the county. Other key projects that pillared the restoration of the Climbers Run stream have included construction of a new bridge to permit wild trout passage at an Amish farm; restoring a mile of stream at Climbers Run Preserve; and working with the local municipality to replace poorly designed culverts on wild trout streams. It is projects like Climbers Run that have to encompass well-rounded, inclusive approaches in order to implement well-known water best management practices, such as grading to reduce sedimentation, cattle crossing repair, and stream stabilization features, such as cross vanes, rock/riffle establishment, and mudsill construction.

“It is collaborative stream restoration projects like these that will continue to help enhance water quality for wildlife; provide access for trout to migrate; and improve the health for communities living, working, and recreating along Climbers Run in the Pequea Creek Watershed, and everywhere in Lancaster County,” quoted Lydia Martin. 

The Partners’ affiliates encourage all who are heading out for the warmer spring weather to enjoy some of the restorative work that has been completed over the years by your leading community partners. Some fun activities to consider near stream restoration projects include a visit to Sickman’s Mill to float down the Pequea Creek or bird watching along the Enola Low Grade trail, which runs adjacent to the Susquehanna River and crisscrosses through wild streams like the Pequea Creek, and of course don’t forget to visit Climbers Run trails. For more local trail adventures this spring, please visit the Lancaster Conservancy website

It will take years to restore our community’s water sources, and it will take a deep-seeded commitment from the Lancaster community to continue to maintain and protect our water sources for a healthy and economically thriving community. Lancaster Clean Water Partners encourages citizens who are interested in countywide stream restoration efforts to participate with partners like Conestoga River Club and Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, who are organizing river and creek cleanups and restoring riparian buffers with thousands of native trees and shrubs throughout the county this spring. For a comprehensive source of activities near you, visit Lancaster County Conservation District watershed website for groups who are actively participating in conservation efforts and fun events.

There are many opportunities to volunteer to support your local river club, environmental organization, or township with projects that are leading river cleanups, or beautification projects along your favorite waterway or park. Visit the Partners website to connect to a full list of leading community partners, register for their upcoming events, and sign up for the Partners newsletter for progress and opportunities to get involved with clean water initiatives throughout Lancaster County.