Look Around You

Take a moment to look around you. If you like what you see, it’s likely that the people charged with the development of your community understand and care about issues that contribute to making it livable. “Good” planning is an issue that’s gotten a lot of attention over the years as people have striven to reverse suburban sprawl and make cities more robust.

We’re lucky that in Union County, forward-thinking planners like Shawn McLaughlin have taken the time to infuse their already-evolved thinking with input from visionaries like Thomas Hylton about what our communities can and should look like. The result is comprehensive plans that really do plan for the future–in a humanistic, positive, recreation-oriented, smart-growth kind of way.

Communities planned in this way are infused with attributes that make them more user-friendly. They include trees, sidewalks, playgrounds and parks welcoming recreators, and rail-trails with protected spaces for jogging, bicycling and strolling, as well as the re-use of existing structures. But beyond that, such communities have worked to prevent or at least minimize the paving over and obliteration of open spaces.

This crusade for good planning was taken on by Pennsylvania newsman Tom Hylton in the mid 1980s, as he watched his small town decline while the surrounding countryside was paved over for a jumble of roads, stores, parking lots, and tract housing.

This crusade led to a Pulitzer Prize, his influential book, Save Our Land, Save Our Towns, the charitable corporation with the same name and a public television documentary.

I remember feeling uplifted and hopeful while reading the book, and hearing Hylton speak in Sept. 2007 when he was invited to Lewisburg to kick off “Cultivating Community,” the Union County Comprehensive Plan.

You have the opportunity to hear Hylton speak when he leads off the “Green it Up Harrisburg” Leadership Training series with a presentation on October 8th.

His presentation will center on the major issues confronting communities, the root causes, and what can be done to improve our communities and our environment. A focus of the discussion will be on the community benefits of
– green infrastructure, like trees
– and the positive impact trees can have on local water quality.

The event is being held at the Civic Club of Harrisburg and is open to the general public as well as program
participants. For more information on the event and the training, contact Andrew Bliss, Grassroots Coordinator, The
Chesapeake Bay Foundation, abliss@cbf.org. To RSVP to the Thomas Hylton presentation only, contact PAOutreach@cbf.org.IMG_9311

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