Conservation groups offer Berlin Township support

By LIAM MAYO
Posted 8/24/21

BEACH LAKE, PA — Two separate land conservation groups made presentations to the Berlin Township supervisors at their Monday, August 16 meeting.  Shanon Cilentro, Upper Delaware Council …

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Conservation groups offer Berlin Township support

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BEACH LAKE, PA — Two separate land conservation groups made presentations to the Berlin Township supervisors at their Monday, August 16 meeting.  Shanon Cilentro, Upper Delaware Council (UDC) Resources and Land Use Specialist, made the first presentation. The UDC, a council comprising representatives from municipalities within the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Corridor, monitors and advises on land-use development within the river corridor to ensure compliance with the River Management Plan (RMP).

The UDC’s project review workbook plays an important role in that process, providing guidelines and the forms that municipalities need to be in compliance with the RMP. It was updated most recently in May 2020, when Cilentro joined the UDC staff. Since then, she has been touring around the UDC’s member municipalities, introducing herself and the updated workbook.

That tour brought Cilentro to Berlin Township on August 16. She introduced herself, gave the supervisors copies of the revised handbook and offered the UDC’s help for any projects undertaken within the township along the river corridor.

Supervisor Cathy Hunt asked about the UDC’s technical assistance grants. The requirements for those grants, offered by the UDC to help municipalities fund projects that assist the implementation of the river management plan, had become strict recently, making it hard to get even popular projects approved.

“I agree with you,” said Cilentro. “And all of the council agrees with you.”

The previous National Park Service (NPS) superintendent had played a large role in restricting the scope of those grants, she said. The UDC was currently working with the current NPS superintendent, Joe Salvatore, to ensure the requirements were as broad as the UDC had interpreted, and that the UDC had verbal confirmation for the current round of funding that projects would be approved if related in any way, shape or form to the river management plan.

Supervisors also heard a presentation from Delaware Highland Conservancy Executive Director Diane Rosencrance and land protection committee member Steven Schwartz.

Similar to the UDC, the conservancy protects land throughout the Upper Delaware region in collaboration with local landowners and municipalities. When a private property owner wants to preserve their land for a specific use—for agriculture, for forest management, for fishing and the like—the conservancy works with them to create a conservation easement. This easement, a document with similar legal status to a deed, guarantees that the land will only be used for the agreed-upon purpose into perpetuity.

The key element of that process is collaboration; property owners work together with the conservancy to keep their land protected. Schwartz and Rosencrance came before the Berlin Township Board of Supervisors offering that same collaboration at the municipal level.

At question was the town’s portion of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, the first installment of which Berlin recently received.

By federal funding standards, the rules governing ARPA funding were fairly flexible, said Schwartz. The money could be spent on projects related to recreation or conservation, types of projects with which the conservancy had a lot of experience.

If there was anything the supervisors wanted to accomplish in those areas, the conservancy could have a conversation with them and walk them through any issues they might accomplish.

“Our door is always open,” said Schwartz.

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