Northampton County Voters Pass Open Space Referendum
The voters of Northampton County approved the Open Space Referendum in the November 5 general election. The measure allows Northampton County to raise $37 million for farmland preservation, protection of environmentally sensitive lands, and park acquisition and improvements.
Helene Whitaker, Chair of the Northampton County Citizens for Open Space, said, “I’m exhausted, but thrilled. We said all along that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity; the voters seized this moment to protect what we all cherish: our open space, our natural resources, our recreational lands, and our farms. This is an initiative with broad support, and its passage will benefit us all.”
“The approval of Northampton County’s open space referendum demonstrates that residents of the Lehigh Valley are committed to land preservation in their communities, and are willing to pay for it,” said Terrence Nolan, Pennsylvania Project Manager for the Trust for Public Land, which advised the local committee.
Northampton County Councilman, and Chair of the County Council’s Open Space Committee, Tim Merwarth said, “This was the right thing to do because we are preserving and enhancing the natural resources and beauty of Northampton County. This was the right thing to do because our farmers will have the opportunity to preserve their farms in perpetuity. And this was the right thing to do because we will create parks where our children can play and our grandparents can walk. This initiative will last from generation to generation.
” Tom Kerr, Chairman of the citizen’s campaign committee and President of Wildlands Conservancy, said, “The success of this multi-constituency, non-partisan effort in Northampton County to pass a referendum for open space funding is testimony to the will and desire of the people of the county to extend the dreams of Hugh Moore, Gertie Fox, Robert Rodale, and others. These leaders had the vision to protect the precious open spaces of the Lehigh Valley for us and for succeeding generations. With this new impetus of funding, we can maintain that momentum.”
Alan Jennings, Executive Director of Community Action League said he knows how this will benefit urban areas and inner city kids by renovating and restoring parks. “It’s time to get to work and show voters how right their collective decision is. I can’t wait to hear the kids in Bethlehem’s and Easton’s neighborhoods having fun and to see property values on the rise,” Jennings said.
The Northampton County Citizens for Open Space grew out of the Green Future Fund, a valley-wide effort to support open space preservation that successfully led an open space campaign in Lehigh County in the spring primary.
On November 5, voters across the country decided ballot measures to create more than $5 billion in new funding for parks and open space, according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). At least 90 communities in 22 states voted on land-conservation funding. In addition, voters in California, Nevada, and Virginia voted on statewide land-protection-funding measures. The results of these measures can be seen at www.landvote.org.
“Since 1998, voters have approved $20 billion to protect green spaces,” said Russell Shay, Director of Public Policy for LTA. “This year’s ballot line-up shows the priority state legislatures, county commissions, and city councils are giving to land conservation, even in tough economic times.”