Schuylkill Highlands Initiative Honored By Landscape Architects

The American Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award was presented to Natural Lands Trust and Carter van Dyke Associates at the annual Pennsylvania-Delaware Chapter of Landscape Architects conference, held April 14 at the Lancaster Conference Center.
            Natural Lands Trust and Carter van Dyke Associates were recognized for “outstanding professional achievement” in the 2012 Professional Awards Program in the analysis and planning category for “A Plan for Compatible Economic Development of the Middle Schuylkill.”
            The award-wining effort is a Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative project undertaken to promote the area within the Schuylkill Highlands, from Valley Forge to Reading, as a hallmark cultural, recreational, and natural heritage destination.
            The project is intended to serve as a demonstration of how regional assets can be conserved by developing a sustainable economy based upon place-based recreational and cultural tourism.
            Accepting the award were Peter Fernandez of CVDA Associates and Carol De Wolf, director of the Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative.
            “The wealth of the Middle Schuylkill region’s natural, recreational, historic and cultural resources holds great potential as the basis for the targeted development of a tourist /visitor industry,” De Wolf said. “These resources are not only rich, but concentrated, overlapping, and plentiful. The purpose of this study is to illustrate the strong economic base for place-based tourism that already exists, and ways in which local communities in the region can directly benefit by encouraging compatible economic development that supports place-based tourism.”
            The plan was undertaken through funding support from DCNR, the state Department of Community and Economic Development, and the William Penn Foundation. Other consultants assisting Carter van Dyke included S. Huffman Associates, Campbell Thomas & Co., and Recreation and Parks Solutions and landscape-wide Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative partners.
            “The strategies and action recommended in the plan include a wide range of objectives,” said De Wolf. “They form the framework from which the initiative is moving forward to address and act on the defined gaps in compatible economic development identified within the plan.”
            One of seven landscape initiatives established across the state, the Schuylkill Highlands encompass some of the state’s most populated counties: Berks, Bucks, Chester, Lebanon, Lancaster, Lehigh and Montgomery. This area is also home to critical unprotected lands such as source water, head waters, riparian buffers, watershed lands, natural areas, contiguous forested lands and key habitats, farmland, and greenway connectors found in what’s known as the Hopewell Big Woods.
            The Schuylkill Highlands initiative is designed to hoping to protect what is special in this area by saving high-quality lands and connecting people and communities through a network of trails and gateway communities. Its backbone is the Schuylkill River Trail. By completing a crucial segment in Chester County as well as the necessary connector spurs from many communities and destinations, the trail will successfully link together recreational hubs and river towns from Valley Forge to Reading.
            The Schuylkill Highlands Conservation Landscape Initiative is administered by Natural Lands Trust.

(Reprinted from the April 25 issue of DCNR's Resource online newsletter.)


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