Environmental Advisory Council Considers Preserving Properties

UPPER SAUCON – The Upper Saucon Township Environmental Advisory Council met at the Township Municipal Building Tuesday night to consider preserving several properties.

Chairman Thomas Gettings and council members Erin Frederick, Carolyn Lidie, Peter Staffeld, James Ward and Joseph Horvath attended.

Township Manager Thomas Beil told the council that he had met with the owner of the Tucciarone property on Limeport Pike to discuss the possibility of purchasing the 37.3 acres for agricultural conservation.  However, Beil said the owner wanted $5,000-6,000 more per acre than the preservation fund could pay.  Beil is not optimistic about the prospects of completing the purchase.

Lidie presented statement naming reasons why the township wants to preserve a 13.6 acre property on East Valley Road.  According to Beil, the township and Stabler have obligations regarding the property, which is under settlement.  Lidie said the township currently leases the land.  Council members decided to hold onto the statement until such time as township takes possession of the land, which Beil said may happen next year. 

Lidie also reported that she and other members had walked the property near the existing Upper Saucon Community Park, which had been targeted for an expansion in 2007.  Lidie said a Penn State master gardener accompanied the members, who identified mature trees that could form the nucleus of a future arboretum.  Judy Krasnicke said it was “a golden opportunity for a lot of ideas to flourish.”  Beil reminded the council that the price tag for just one phase of the 2007 plan was over $1 million, and that the township had consequently put the plan on indefinite hold. 

The council discussed acquisition of the 5.5 acre Radle property on Spring Drive.  According to Beil, the property was not one which the township had targeted for preservation. 

Beil announced that the Board of Supervisors approved a recommendation by the Open Space Study Committee to hire the Trust for Public Land as a consultant. 

Staffeld volunteered to study whether or not the township should purchase electric vehicles for its non-law enforcement staff to use.  He will analyze the cost-effectiveness of electrically-powered cars versus the old, gas-powered police cruisers which the township staff currently utilizes.  He will also find out if any grants exist that might offset the cost of new cars.  Beil said that since township staff drives less than 10,000 miles per year, any gasoline savings due to using electric vehicles may not cover the cost of the new cars.  

Gettings announced that the Pennsylvania Highlands Trail Network is very interested in tying the SEPTA line trail into a larger trail through Pennsylvania.  Beil reported that phase one of construction of the Rails-to-Trails program is about to begin.  Phase one will connect the township park’s trails with Lower Saucon Township.  According to Beil, a fabric layer will cover the old railroad lines, and crushed stone on top will form the new trail surface.  If SEPTA ever decides to use the old lines again, the fabric and stone can then be simply removed.  Beil said phase one should be complete by the end of 2010. 

Frederick announced an owl-themed environmental program tentatively scheduled for Jan. 18, 2011 at the Southern Lehigh Public Library.  Frederick also mentioned that the Lehigh Valley Conservation District will hold a conference on March 11, 2011 at Lehigh University.  This year’s theme will be “Watershed Science.”

The next Upper Saucon Township Environmental Advisory Council meeting will be held at the Township Municipal Building on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m.

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