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Richland considers environmental education proposal


At their Sept. 13 public meeting, Richland Township supervisors offered some encouragement to proposals to use a portion of a township-owned open space tract for environmental education programming, and separately, to explore the possibility of preserving a 1776 house, as an alternative to demolition.
Shannon Fredebaugh-Siller, community engagement programs manager for Heritage Conservancy, presented a conceptual proposal for utilizing the western portion of the 48-acre Lisbon tract, an open space owned by the township that is adjacent to both Richland Elementary School and Strayer Middle School, for an environmental education program.
The program would be partnered with Quakertown Community School District and the township. The tract features Morgan Creek running through it, with associated wetlands, and flowing into the conservancy’s Khindri Preserve.
The program would take advantage of the conservancy’s successful experience with a similar strategic environmental education concept, over the last five years, in the Croydon Woods Nature Preserve in Lower Bucks County. There, Fredebaugh-Siller noted, Heritage staff and volunteers have provided outdoor and in-classroom field trips, and also have “empowered teachers to utilize the forest as an outdoor learning space, throughout the school day, on their own schedules.”
She further noted that the Lisbon tract’s close proximity to the two district schools provided an important further advantage, with the need for arranging transportation for outdoor field trips often serving as a stumbling block for environmental education proposals elsewhere. In addition, the Heritage Conservancy would work to secure funding for the programs, including any necessary supplies, so they could be provided free to the schools.

Earlier in the Sept. 13 meeting, supervisors heard from Stacee Hogan of Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN), and Brian Fleming of Cherry Valley Contractors, regarding their zoning and building permit application for demolition of the 1776-built Abraham Taylor house, and surrounding outbuildings, on W. Pumping Station Road. While site owner LVHN, whose expanded services in the area have also made it a major new developer, noted it had no particular current plans for the site, LVHN and the township also noted the long-vacant house had become “subject to (squatting) by the homeless, as well as break-ins, vandalism, theft, and drug activity.”
Hogan indicated a willingness to consider alternatives to demolition, given LVHN might need improved road access in any case, while meanwhile Fleming said he would take care of brush and other clearing on the property to help the community and its police work against any further undesirable use, as well as any further damage.
Richard Sadler, from the township’s preservation board, noted the house was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, and was one of a handful of area buildings left from a 1784 tax record. He further noted possibilities for using, selling, or donating the house, with a local Realtor already on board for assisting.
As a first step, supervisors agreed to provide $500, to add to $1,000 from Heritage Conservancy, for expert evaluation of the house’s condition, and some further research, by the conservancy’s Jeff Marshall.