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Hundreds more trees will be planted in Lower Swatara, Londonderry townships

Posted 4/4/18

Lower Swatara Township plans to plant trees along a stretch of Fulling Mill Road, and hopes to plant trees on the Shireman Farm tract as well.

On March 21, the Board of Commissioners unanimously …

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Hundreds more trees will be planted in Lower Swatara, Londonderry townships


Lower Swatara Township plans to plant trees along a stretch of Fulling Mill Road, and hopes to plant trees on the Shireman Farm tract as well.

On March 21, the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to plant trees at 130 Fulling Mill Road this month — subject to an acceptable planting plan after some members expressed concern about losing open space that they said could be used for recreation.

This is a similar project to last year when 360 trees were planted as part of the Manada Conservancy’s Swatara Creek Greenway effort.

Londonderry Township took part last year and will do so again this year, planting trees on its side of the Swatara Creek. The townships plan to plant 400 trees April 20. Trees native to Pennsylvania will be planted adjacent to the trees planted last year.

“Not only are we creating a buffer, but we’re also creating a wildlife corridor which is really fantastic,” Londonderry Township Manager Steve Letavic said.

The land along Fulling Mill road is a nice piece of property, Lower Swatara Board Vice President Todd Truntz said.

“I was thinking, I value that open space there. Rather than forest the whole area … what if we go around the perimeter,” Truntz said. “I would like that better than expand and basically overtake an open area.”

Shireman tract

The board also voted to include a plan to plant trees on the Shireman tract in a grant application to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources being submitted by the Dauphin County Conservation District.

The township bought the 32-acre Shireman tract, at the southeast corner of Longview Drive and Ebenezer Road, last year for $374,000.

It was awarded a 50-50 matching Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Grant in the amount of $187,000 to buy the property in December 2016.

Ideas suggested previously for use of the property include two to three softball fields, walking trails, picnic areas and a dog park.

Interim Manager Frank Lynch said the township will submit a grant application in the next few weeks to create a recreation plan for the township, including examining what should be done with the Shireman tract.

“I pushed trees on you all not because it’s my agenda — because it makes the DEP [Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection] happy whenever they come and visit you and review your MS4 program and see you’re doing things,” township engineer Erin Letavic said. “I do have some clients who don’t do projects like these, and they have not fared well during DEP inspections.”

Truntz said the tree project was good both ecologically and to comply with the Municipal Separate Sewer Program — or MS4 — which requires municipalities to develop a plan to control runoff water and sedimentation.

If the district is awarded the grant, Letavic said it would include a local match of $1,200.

Dauphin County Conservation District’s Watershed Specialist Robert Frank said that planting trees and shrubs along streams reduces pollution, improves water quality and reduces erosion.

He said the due date for the grant is April 11; the DNCR will decide by December.

Trees would be planted along the northern corner of the Shireman property. In an interview with the Press & Journal, Letavic said they would add to an already-wooded area near a stream.

If the conservation district is awarded the grant, the Shireman trees would not be planted until 2019.

Letavic said the grant would include money to water, weed and mow the land around the trees.

When asked about the location of the trees, Letavic said it was at the lowest point of the property.

“This would not get in the way of any future development,” Letavic said.

“That would be my concern,” Commissioner Chris DeHart said.

In an interview, DeHart said he had concerns “about planting trees or installing a rain garden in an area that could be used for recreation.”

Township recreation

In regard to the study about township recreation, Lynch said the grant would be used for a study similar to one conducted several years ago of the history and use of recreation in the Middletown area that led to the development of the Middletown Area Recreation Alliance — an organization that leaders hope will lead to more diverse recreation programs.

The difference, Letavic said in a meeting in early February, is that that study focused on the athletic needs and didn’t take into consideration all of the township’s activities and facilities.

“The idea is to do an analysis of all of your park and recreation spaces and determine what levels of services for a township of this size should be invested in the future, and do those uses then fit on the Shireman property,” Erin Letavic said.

A grant was submitted to create a similar plan for Lower Swatara last year for $80,000 including a $40,000 match by the township. In late December, the township announced that it did not receive the grant.

At a meeting in early February, the commissioners discussed whether they wanted to submit a grant to create plans for the Shireman property and overall recreation. Letavic said people anecdotally shared what they believed the Shireman land could be used for.

“But there are standards out there that determine what you should really have to meet national standards,” Letavic said.

“I guess I wonder with the study — are these not things that can’t be done in house with our people rather than spend $40,000 of recreation funds for planning purpose?” Commissioner Ron Paul asked. “You’re going to need that $40,000 to develop the Shireman tract.”

Letavic said they could consider doing the study in house, adding that she didn’t know if anyone on staff had park and recreation credentials. She said the township could use a consultant.

Commissioner Michael Davies said that engineers would have a better idea of how much it would cost to develop the land.

“You will get, I think … a better concept of what costs are involved instead of wet finger in the air, ‘Yeah, I think it will cost us that much to flatten that out,’” Davies said.

Paul said there was a difference between construction plans and a feasibility study.

Davies said he would rather put in an application, adding that he thought it would put the township in a better position for future grants.