The Greenways, Trails and Open Space Plan for Wyoming County has entered its final phases.
Last year, the county adopted its Comprehensive Plan, which included a recommendation for an assessment of these areas. The county updates its Comprehensive Plan every 10 years.
On Jan. 29, the Wyoming County Planning Commission held a public meeting with representatives of McLane Associates, the consultant selected to help develop the plan. LaBella Associates has been its partner in developing the plan.
The county also appointed a committee with representation from community agencies and residents to steer the plan.
Tom McClane, Patty McNeal and Bill Pilkonis from McLane Associates presented what has been accomplished so far in the planning process.
McNeal went over the basic definitions of greenways, trails and open spaces and their relevance in the county before explaining the purpose of the plan.
“We want to meet current and future recreation needs in Wyoming County,” McNeal said.
The goal of the plan is to promote healthy lifestyles, improve and expand existing opportunities and facilities, and promote economic development in the county through tourism and recreation.
Through good planning, counties could achieve positive physical and emotional effects, she said. For example, a new park infrastructure being exciting, safe and accessible could result in more active, socialized and engaged residents.
Pilkonis focused on the firm’s compilation of background data, as well as its site inventory and analysis.
The team used the Wyoming County Comprehensive Plan as its main guiding document, but also referenced the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Commission’s Open Space, Greenway and Outdoor Recreation Plan (2010) and the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership’s Strategic Action Plan (2006).
Pilkonis said organic growth has suited the county well, but going forward, it’s important to strategically plan growth in the county.
In regard to topographical features, he said agricultural land makes up 23.7 percent of the county.
“The importance of maintaining that rural character here is ever more important,” he said, emphasizing agricultural security zones and conservation easements.
In Wyoming County, 1,038 acres of farmland have been conserved, but 15 farms remain on the waiting list. This program has been successful yet underfunded, Pilkonis said, so the team hopes to rectify this issue through its recommendations.
Forested land makes up two thirds of the county, with 75% being privately owned, he added.
With the waterways being such an asset to the county, Pilkonis also suggested looking at the Susquehanna River as a “blueway,” an alternative to a greenway.
The team also analyzed human-centric areas of the county, including recreational, historic and cultural sites that add value.
They shared recommendations for land use and housing from the Comprehensive Plan, such as focusing and directing growth to create concentrations around these population centers. Additionally, the team learned that the plan supports developing a business park on Route 11.
Pilkonis also discussed recommendations for roadway improvements, including thinking decades down the line how road alterations would impact the area, enhancing safety and increasing connections along the county’s main routes.
In the site inventory assessment presentation, he said the county could more work into trail development. While trails exist within the county, there are few connections between them.
Pilkonis also reiterated the importance of waterways in the county.
“The rivers are the county,” he said, noting this lends itself to additional development opportunities.
As an additional way of gathering information, McNeal said interviews were conducted with experts around the county from places such as the Endless Mountains Nature Center and the Wyoming County Conservation District.
The team also attended events like River Day to engage with the public.
“That is where we have begun to guide our vision,” Pilkonis concluded. “How do we take all of these concepts, overlay them, and make it a mesh that allows connections across the county.”
The public can expect at least one more public meeting for the Greenways, Trails and Open Space Plan, where a draft will be presented for additional input.