Plainfield Township will create new zoning ordinances that protect the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (A.T.) from the negative impacts of energy development projects. The new ordinances will create a buffer that will prevent projects — such as natural gas pipelines, wind turbines, solar panels or cellular towers — from being constructed near the A.T. or, when appropriate, conceal or camouflage towers near the Trail. The new ordinances will also address water and mineral extraction.
“The threats to the Appalachian Trail are very real, and as the region continues to grow it is important that the township takes measures to protect the longest hiking-only footpath in the world that is enjoyed by millions, many of whom stimulate the local economy by visiting Wind Gap, an Appalachian Trail Community,” said Tom Petrucci, Plainfield Township manager.
High-impact energy infrastructure sometimes conflicts with existing land use and can diminish the A.T. hiking experience. Plainfield Township wants to protect the A.T. under the PA Act 24 of 2008, which requires municipalities to adopt zoning that protects the Trail values.
With the help of the Urban Research and Development Corporation (URDC), the Township will review multiple issues for future energy infrastructure and resource extraction projects by drafting a zoning ordinance to protect the A.T. throughout the Slate Belt region. These and other ordinances will be fully vetted by the public, township planners and supervisors later this year.
“We look forward to working with Plainfield citizens, township officials and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy on working to preserve the scenic beauty and character of the Township,” said Charlie Schmehl, vice-president of Bethlehem-Based URDC. “This project will also protect Township residents by updating regulations on land uses with intensive impacts.”
“The ambitious conservation effort that Plainfield Township has taken is unprecedented among any other township to date along the Appalachian Trail,” said Karen Lutz, regional director for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC). “We hope that other townships in Pennsylvania through which the A.T. passes will look to Plainfield as a model for how communities can work with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to protect Trail values that impact millions of visitors each year.”
This effort is made possible by the ATC Conservation Assistance Mini-Grant Program, which helps local municipalities and partnering nonprofit organizations preserve and promote community character and the natural and cultural assets within the A.T. landscape in Pennsylvania. Funds for the mini-grant come from the National Park Service’s A.T. Park Office and are provided to the ATC through a cooperative agreement. For more information about this grant program, contact Brooks Mountcastle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Appalachian Conservancy
The ATC was founded in 1925 by volunteers and federal officials working to build a continuous footpath along the Appalachian Mountains. A unit of the National Park Service, the A.T. ranges from Maine to Georgia and is approximately 2,190 miles in length. It is the longest hiking-only footpath in the world. The mission of the ATC is to preserve and manage the Appalachian Trail – ensuring that its vast natural beauty and priceless cultural heritage can be shared and enjoyed today, tomorrow, and for centuries to come. For more information, please visit www.appalachiantrail.org.