Shaping a Vision for the Conewago

Posted: December 28, 2010

This fall, Penn State Extension has been working deeply within a local watershed community in the Lower Susquehanna region, helping to craft its vision for the future.

Funded by a $750,000 grant awarded to Extension by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Conewago Creek Initiative is a locally-led, collaborative partnership effort that seeks to improve water quality in the Conewago Creek watershed in Dauphin, Lebanon, and Lancaster Counties. Key partners include the local watershed group (Tri-County Conewago Creek Association), the Dauphin, Lebanon, and Lancaster County Conservation Districts, the USDA NRCS, PADEP, and many others.

In engagement efforts such as the Conewago Creek Initiative, community participation is critical to success. So is having a plan, and the involvement of the community in developing that plan.

Thus Initiative partners together with Conewago residents embarked on a “visioning process” to develop an vision for the Conewago—what they want the watershed to look like in the future—and suggest ways in which to achieve that vision. The process kicked off in August with a community pancake breakfast at the Lawn Fire Hall, where watershed residents were given an opportunity to provided input on opportunities and changes need to ensure the health and vitality of the watershed.

At the breakfast, recruitment of a “vision team” began. The Conewago Vision Team includes farmers and residents of the watershed, local municipal leaders and business owners, and members of agencies and organizations active in the Conewago Creek Initiative. Through two meetings in August and September, the Vision Team, facilitated by Janie French of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, synthesized input from stakeholders and developed a vision statement in which the community saw the “restored Conewago” as “a centerpiece of pride and an asset in a rural landscape.”

On October 23, 2010, A Vision for the Conewago Conference was held to present the vision to the broader Conewago watershed community and determine how it may be implemented. The vision in video format, produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting, was premiered.  More than 40 participants commented on the vision, suggested action items, and then prioritized action items to advance the vision.

The vision team is now working to develop a vision report that will accompany the video and set forth the vision and priority action items for achieve it.

Restoring and protecting a watershed takes a committed and coordinated effort from many stakeholders with support and technical assistance from local, state and federal agencies. In the Conewago, a vision plan is now in place that will rally residents and local officials, and serve as a beacon for all future watershed restoration and protection efforts in the Conewago, and a model for other Pennsylvania watersheds.

To see more, view this YouTube video