April Earth Month Issue. Original Story submitted by members of the LMT EAC. Foreword by Heather DiPrato. Photos by Cindy Fatsis Photography.
It’s almost Earth Day, a day to celebrate and promote environmental causes! Earth Day has been celebrated on April 22nd since 1970. It has grown to be the largest secular holiday celebrated around the world with more than a billion people recognizing it as a special day, and now many people consider April to be Earth Month.
Lower Makefield Township is at the forefront of environmental protection and education and leading the way is our Township Environmental Advisory Council also known as the EAC. The EAC is a volunteer committee that functions as an advisory, land use review, and public education board serving the Township of Lower Makefield and its citizens. Lower Makefield is recognized as an environmental leader, not only in PA, but throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region as well.
This fact is attested to by the numerous awards, testimonials, and commendations that the township has received over the years. “Some examples include the Municipal Environmental Achievement Award from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, the PA Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence, the winner of the Smart Power Energy Competition,” says Jim Bray, the past Chairman and long-serving EAC member. “Also, numerous other recognitions from agencies such as the Sierra Club, The International Climate League, and various other local and municipal environmental groups have been awarded to Lower Makefield.”
LMT, through an effective EAC Council Outreach Program, has shared its success stories with various other organizations and municipalities, not only in the state of PA, but in New Jersey and New York as well. “These well received talks have included info on some of LMT’s major initiatives,” says Jim Bray, such as its innovative Low Impact Dev. Stormwater Mgt. Ord. ( L.I.D. ) its mandated Native Plant ordinance and various other projects such as Basin Naturalization and some cutting edge Tree Protection ordinances to name but a few.”
As a designated review board, land use plans submitted to the Township are reviewed by the EAC to ensure they will comply with the Township’s environmental regulations and ordinances. For the last 15 years the EAC has submitted review letters to the Township for both major and minor developments that have been proposed. “The most recent examples,” says Alan Dresser, “were reviews of the Mixed-Use Picket Preserve development, the Pennsylvania American Water Co.’s Booster Pump Station on Oxford Valley Road, and the Gomez Minor Subdivision.”
The EAC has also initiated changes to the Township’s ordinances to better protect the Township’s environment. “Since 2006, the EAC has been instrumental in getting many cutting edge ordinances passed by the Board of Supervisors,” says Jim, “the Low Impact Development ordinance (2006), the Native Plant ordinance (2007), the Green Building Code (2009), the Pervious Pavement ordinance (2014), the Tree Bank ordinance (2014), the Tree Protection Standards ordinance (2019), the Increase Woodlands Protection ordinance (2019), and the Heritage Tree Ordinance (2019)are noteworthy examples.”
For more than a dozen years the LMT Environmental Council has sponsored a free lecture series that has addressed some of the important environmental issues of our time. Examples include: Stormwater Mgt., Benefits of Native Plants, Energy Efficiency, Non-Toxic Lawn Care, etc. “Thanks to the generosity of the LMT board of supervisors,” says Linda Silvati, the current EAC Chairperson, “the EAC has a budget adequate to secure noteworthy speakers on pertinent environmental topics.
Some examples include a fascinating lecture on Bird Migration by noted Ornithologist and author Scott Weidensaul, a lecture on Chemical Free Lawns by noted, nationally syndicated radio personality Mike Mcgrath ( You Bet Your Garden ) and noted author Doug Tallamy, whose best-selling book ”Bringing Nature Home” has literally made him the guru of the Native Plant movement.” All are welcome to attend these free lectures that are held 2-3 times a year in either the LMT Administrative Building, or the Community Services Building on Oxford Valley Road and are generally held on Saturday mornings and are well publicized on LMT’s Web as well as in several local publications.
The LMT EAC also highlights work of community residents who have in some way contributed to environmental sustainability with initiatives in their own homes. The works of residents are being featured in a mini-newsletter called ‘Every Bit Counts,’ the brain child of Soumya Dharmavaram, has become a favorite of subscribers. The August 2020 edition featured a resident who uses native plants in her backyard to support feeding and nesting habitats for local insects and birds, and the September 2020 edition featured residents who use a home solar system that fully offsets their energy needs.
The EAC has been instrumental in several tree planting initiatives at various locations in Lower Makefield. “On Saturday, November 7, 2020 the EAC, in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors, Parks & Recreation, and Public Works, and 100 community volunteers planted 246 shrubs and trees at Patterson Farm,” Linda explains. “The planting stretched over approximately 400 feet of a headwater to Buck Creek!” All tributary streams, connected to downstream rivers via channels where water and other materials are concentrated, mixed, transformed, and transported.
Headwater streams convey water into local storage compartments such as ponds, shallow aquifers, or stream banks, and into aquifers. In addition to water, streams transport sediment, wood, organic matter, nutrients, chemical contaminants, and many of the organisms found in rivers. The plantings along the banks of the Buck Creek headwater are anticipated to stabilize the banks, minimize erosion, filter and retain stormwater runoff, and expand and promote interconnectedness with nearby habitats and open space.
This project is not intended to be an isolated system, but rather a riparian zone enhancement and restoration site that interacts and contributes to regional efforts and the quality of the overall watershed. The plantings included various sizes of shrubs and trees consisting of arrowwood, sweet pepperbush, buttonbush, winterberry, magnolia, pussy willow, musclewood, river birch, blackgum, silver maple, red maple, American beech.
Planting material was acquired from Feeney’s Nursery, Shady Brook Farm Nursery, and Pinelands Nursery. According to Linda Salvati, “The EAC is planning a second large volunteer planting to complete the project along the headwater in the Fall of 2021.”
In the past, on Saturday, November 16, 2019 the Lower Makefield EAC, in conjunction with the Board of Supervisors, Parks & Recreation, and Public Works, and 100 community volunteers planted 123 shrubs and trees at the Caiola Field. The planting was performed on the western portion of the ball field. The plantings included various sizes of shrubs and trees consisting of arrowwood, holly, dogwood, redbud, magnolia, musclewood, river birch, red cedar, silver maple, red maple, tulip poplar, and red oak. Planting material was acquired from Pinelands Nursery and Octoraro Nursery.
A multi-use trail is also proposed to be installed on the remainder of the ballfield property in the summer of 2021. The EAC is planning a second large volunteer planting to complete the project once the trail project is completed. The EAC continues to work on improving the amount of recycling occurring in the Township. “This effort includes providing the public information on recycling such as sponsoring relevant lectures (there is an upcoming presentation on composting),” says Alan Dresser. “We also hold recycling events for items not collected by the waste haulers.”
Last year the EAC held two successful styrofoam collection events. Instead of going to a landfill, the styrofoam was taken to a manufacturer who processed it into furniture trim and picture frames. This year we will be having events to collect styrofoam, corks, and possibly electronics and pumpkins. The first styrofoam and cork recycling event is scheduled for May 15th at the Township Building. The EAC will also be investigating ways to improve the recycling rate in LMT’s parks.
Another recent recycling initiative was string light recycling. “I am the Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 95,” says Brendan Bligh, an LMT resident, and volunteer. “I have been involved in this Pack since 2015, with two sons coming up through the unit (my youngest is currently a Bear Scout). Our pack is chartered to the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Yardley, and our scouts primarily come from Makefield Elementary School. This is our second year collecting broken string lights for recycling!”
This year, the scouts ran the drive from just after Thanksgiving until the end of January, and they had a great response. “We were supported this year by Annie Cooper at Big Oak Citgo,” says Brendan. “She volunteered her business to serve as a central collection point, which was hugely helpful and allowed us to run the event over several weeks, instead of just a one-day drop-off as we had done previously.”
Environmental conservation has always been an integral part of Scouting, and by collecting broken lights and turning them in for scrap, they are melted down to be re-used, keeping them out of the landfill.
The scout organization benefited from the drive, too. It was used as a fundraiser for their annual scout program. “Our program this year was an even bigger success than before. We collected 400 pounds of lights!” says Brendan. “We are really happy with how the drive worked and are so appreciative of Big Oak Citgo’s participation with us! With 400 pounds of lights out of the landfills, we’ve helped our community do its part to improve the environment, not to mention helping our neighbors clear out some space in their homes. Most importantly we’ve helped our Scouts to learn that their actions can make a positive environmental impact on the world around them.”
If you'd like to learn more about the LMT Environmental Advisory Council, take part as a volunteer, or take steps to support environmental activities in your own home and yard, learn more at https://www.lmt.org/government/boards-and-commissions/environmental-advisory-council/.