First year of York County land preservation program a success, officials say

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

In its first year, the York County Open Space and Land Preservation Program has yielded about 3,100 acres of newly protected open space, surpassing the 2,500-acre annual goal, officials reported Wednesday.

Nearly 400 of those acres will be preserved through the county's land preservation grant program, York County Planning Commission officials said.

"There was definitely a request for more funds than we had available, but we think we had some good projects," Wade Gobrecht, assistant director of the Planning Commission, said at the York County Board of Commissioners meeting Wednesday.

Gobrecht reported nearly $350,000 in awards to the Lancaster Conservancy (which also manages recreational open space in York County), the York County Rail Trail Authority, the Susquehanna National Heritage Area, Spring Grove Borough, West Manheim Township and the Dover Regional Comprehensive Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan.

Grant funding is available because of a 0.1-mill dedicated tax increase enacted this year in support of open space protection, but the grant program is only a part of the county's overall program, Gobrecht said.

More:York County residents open to tax hike for land protection, survey says

More:EDITORIAL: A mandate to protect York County lands

York County is asking for the public's opinion on open spaces and if more land should be protected.
Thursday, August 29, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

"This is just a piece of the goal of protecting and preserving 2,500 acres a year," he said.

The tax revenue from the dedicated millage is also distributed to the county's Agricultural Land Preservation Program, which has preserved about 1,500 acres this year, and the Farm and Natural Lands Trust of York County, which has preserved about 1,200 acres this year.

The 0.1 mill in tax revenue amounted to about $2.2 million dedicated to land preservation in 2020, Gobrecht said.

Before the land protection program started, only about 12% of York County's land, or about 71,500 acres, was protected open space.

The long-term goal of the program is to preserve an additional 85,000 acres, or 132 square miles, over the next 30 years.

The ideal land for preservation is agricultural land with nutrient-rich soil and open space conducive to recreation.

Gobrecht will provide an annual report of the program's progress to the county commissioners in February, he said, and a new round of grant funding will become available in the spring.

More:Nearly 1,000 acres of wilderness in York County to become nature preserve