Lehigh County Approves Open Space Funds (PA)

Lehigh County, PA, 6/22/02: On May 21, voters in fast-growing Lehigh County overwhelmingly approved the Green Future Fund, a $30 million county bond to protect open space and farmland and to expand and improve local parks. The measure passed with 14,907 yes votes, or 70.6 percent of the vote to 6,201 no votes (29.4 percent).

“The people of Lehigh County resoundingly voted to preserve the Lehigh Valley’s natural resources and quality of life for today and for generations to come,” said Chris Wells, conservation finance manager at the Trust for Public Land, who advised the local campaign committee. “I thought this measure would pass, but I am amazed at the final margin of victory,” he added.

Wells praised the skill and hard work of the Green Future Fund’s volunteer campaign committee, which secured the measure’s place on the ballot, assembled an impressive list of endorsements, secured positive press coverage, carried out an extensive mail campaign to educate likely voters, and manned phone banks and polling places. “The committee is a case study in how to run an effective volunteer open space campaign; they did a truly incredible job of educating and mobilizing voters,” Wells said. For more information on the Green Future Fund campaign committee, go to www.greenfuturefund.org.

“Fostering strong support from county officials, as well as from a very broad assortment of supporters from many constituencies, was among our most effective strategies. The involvement of TPL as strategy advisors made an enormous impact on the efficiency and effectiveness of the campaign. We are most appreciative of their support and guidance,” said Tom Kerr, President of the Wildlands Conservancy, and member of the Green Future Fund Campaign Committee.

Looking ahead, the Green Future Fund Campaign Committee now hopes to secure similar levels of funding for land conservation and parks in neighboring Northampton County.

TPL’s Conservation Finance Program works with community groups, elected officials, and public agencies to help design and pass conservation funding measures. To date, the program has actively assisted the passage of 150 open space funding measures in 30 states, generating more than $28 billion in new public funding for land conservation.