It took some doing, but Newtown Township officials have finally come up with a Pollution Reduction Plan (PRP) that satisfies both the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and neighbors living close to Roberts Ridge Park.
As part of a plan aimed at reducing more than 202,000 pounds of pollution sediment per year from nearby waterways, the township plans to convert more than 61 acres of township-owned property into meadows.
Meadow conversion has already begun or will begin soon on portions of land at Silver Lake Park, Helen Randle Park, Veterans Park and Roberts Ridge Park.
When neighbors saw 6.21 acres of lawn disappear at Roberts Ridge, however, some objected, making their concerns public at the May 8 meeting of the supervisors.
Township Manager Micah Lewis says those comments spurred a change in the township’s request for proposals.
“There were a few questions about some other proposed areas of meadow,” said Lewis. “However, the one that stood out the most was the Roberts Ridge proposed meadow.”
Residents of Newtown Walk had expressed concerns about having the meadow located outside their back doors. That area will now be maintained as lawn and the meadow shifted further north.
Residents also wanted the area south of the Roberts Ridge playground mowed and maintained. In response, township officials shifted their meadow plan to include a pair of L-shaped parcels to the northern and southern sides of the park while leaving the central portion – that will be mowed regularly – open for community use.
According to Township Planner Michele Fountain, Newtown still plans to convert 6.21 acres of the 22.8-acre park to meadows.
“We were able to reconfigure the meadow to incorporate a larger swath of manicured lawn,” added Lewis. “In essence, we were able to accommodate residents’ concerns and accomplish our goals at the same time.”
Board Secretary-Treasurer John Mack asked about the risk of spreading invasive vegetation when creating meadows.
The township will maintain the meadow, answered Lewis, mowing it two to three times a year.
“What you can’t allow happen with meadows is to let them establish and do nothing,” the manager said. “There is a certain maintenance procedure that’s required.
It will be the township’s responsibility to maintain the meadows so that they don’t turn into overgrown thickets.
“Treating those invasive species that are more aggressive and eradicating them before they take hold will be our priority,” added Lewis.
Fountain says Lewis is the right man for the job.
“Your manager is a landscape architect; who better to watch over these 61 acres that are going to be converted,” said Fountain, of CKS Engineers.
Anything that homeowners associations can do on its own can add to the 10 percent reduction in pollution sediments that the DEP is requiring of all communities that have National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Municipal Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits. However, there has to be an official agreement with the township in such cases, said Fountain.
Through meadow conversions, township planners hope to reduce sediment by 78,284 pounds or more than a quarter of their goal for 2019.
Newtown plans to reduce another 26,000 pounds of sediment by converting six township-owned basins from dry detention basins to extended dry detention basins. An extended dry basin is a shallow landscaped depression with a flat bottom that collects and holds stormwater runoff, allowing pollutants to settle and filter out as the water infiltrates into the ground or is discharged to an approved location.
The remainder of the pollution reductions are expected to come via inlet cleaning (3,787 pounds) and stream restoration (94,248).
The supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of submitting the Pollution Reduction Plan to the DEP. Supervisor Kyle Davis cast the lone dissenting vote June 12.