Feature Spotlight: Helping Turn Community's "Green Vision" into Reality

Posted: October 12, 2015

The Penn State Agriculture and Environment Center's Greening the Lower Susquehanna Team worked with the Lenker Manor neighborhood in Swatara Township to develop a "Green Masterplan" to manage stormwater through green infrastructure
Lenkor Manor community members discuss where to place practices to manage stormwater in their community

Lenkor Manor community members discuss where to place practices to manage stormwater in their community

This fall staff from Penn State’s Agriculture and Environment Center (AEC) and LandStudies, Inc., an ecological restoration firm based in Lititz, Pennsylvania, joined together to unveil a plan for "greening" a community to better manage stormwater runoff. 

The last of six communities involved in the AEC's Greening the Lower Susquehanna project, Lenker Manor in Swatara Township, Dauphin County, is an urban community plagued with frequent flooding due to their close proximity to Spring Creek. Other Greening the Lower Susquehanna communities included Oakmont (Derry Township, Dauphin County), Creekside (North Cornwall Township, Lebanon County), Grandview Chase (Manheim Township, Lancaster County), Colebrook (South Londonderry Township, Lebanon County) and Village Grande (East Hempfield Township, Lancaster County).

Through this project, funded by a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the AEC and partners within Penn State Extension's forest stewardship program, the Department of Ecosystem Sciences and Management, and the Department of Landscape Architecture worked together with LandStudies to develop a process to work with these communities in a series of three community meetings.

The Lenker Manor meetings were hosted by Living Water Community Church throughout the summer. Community members and township officials were present throughout the process. The first meeting was a "discovery" meeting facilitated by Allyson Muth, Penn State Forest Stewardship Program Associated and Kristen Kyler, the AEC's Lower Susquehanna Project Coordinator. Community members shared what they liked about their community, what concerns they had, and ideas for improvement. A large map was provided and areas of significant concern were discussed. 

A second "educational" meeting was held where Kyler and AEC Director Matt Royer discussed the value of forests and native plants in managing stormwater, and provided educational resources such as the Homeowner's Guide to Stormwater Management. 

A group brainstorming activity was conducted at the final "visioning" meeting, allowing sufficient input from the community members about what they loved about their community and what could be changed. Large maps were printed out and the AEC provided felt material, colored stickers and textured paper to represent trees, constructed wetlands and other best practices for urban water management.

This meeting was attended by staff from LandStudies, who met with community members to understand their "green vision" so it could be incorporated into the "Green Masterplan" unveiled by LandStudies this fall.

Because of the complexity and challenges of the flooding concerns in this neighborhood, the Green Masterplan for Lenker Manor includes both short and long term elements, providing residents and local government officials with options for action now with existing resources, and more long term, involved solutions to be implemented once sufficient planning and funding is secured. Possible projects include native wildflower meadows, improvement of existing wetlands and creation of new ones, floodplain restoration, and tree plantings along the stream to stabilize the bank and increase canopy cover.

“It was great to see the community come together and talk about their concerns and share their experiences," said Kyler, who serves as the local project coordinator for Greening the Lower Susquehanna. "We're thankful to the Lenker Manor community for their engagement and willingness to participate in this process. Their love of where they live was evident in their commitment to the process."

Other the next year, the AEC looks forward to a continued relationship with the community as they explore together the potential for implementing a demonstration project.