At the crossroads of two rivers
A scenic greenway initiative is needed for the Lackawaxen River valley
By TOM ZETERBERG, P.E.
The Lackawaxen River corridor and village area are a pristine scenic and environmental jewel among Pike Countys natural resources. The rivers dramatic natural landscape, habitat for wildlife, high water-quality designation and the rich historical presence of the D&H barge canal warrant special consideration for preservation and protection.
However, we are faced with significant challenges:
- Development of the Towpath Road riverbank and abutting land is occurring and warrants special ordinance consideration for matters such as clear cutting of land, building setbacks, commercial usage and floodplain development.
- There has been an ongoing loss of sections of the historic D&H barge canal.
- Parking for fishermen, eagle watching or simply sightseeing is unsafe and/or extremely limited.
- The use of Towpath Road as a state-designated bicycle route is extremely dangerous.
- The condition and maintenance of existing septic systems in the immediate region of the river is questionable, and their potential impact on the quality of the river water warrants ongoing monitoring.
- Remediation/prevention of further river shoreline erosion caused by floodwater and power generation has received no attention.
- Extremely dangerous driving conditions caused by a significant increase in the usage of the narrow Towpath Road by large construction and quarry trucks warrant vehicle size restrictions.
- The Lackawaxen village area is poorly developed and our township is in need of a new township building.
My vision is that the Lackawaxen Township designate the river corridor within the town as the Lackawaxen River Scenic Greenway. To give that designation teeth, the towns comprehensive plan, now ten years old, ought to be overhauled to include measures fostering both the preservation of this area and its enhancement for recreation purposes. Two specific measures that ought to be included in the plan are an official map of the greenway area to be designated, and overlay zoning for that area.
An official map would give the township first right of refusal for purchase of any property sold in the designated area, as well as rights to obtain conservation easements. In this way, the town could start obtaining land that could be used for parks, parking areas, trails or just plain preservation of open space. Overlay zoning, restricting such practices as clear-cutting on existing private property, could ensure that land all along the corridor were being used in an environmentally and historically sound way.
The official map and overlay zoning would have a direct effect, but also, together with the greenway designation, they would have the virtue of attracting the abundant state funding that is now available for projects such as trail building. In particular, it would put the town in a strong position to pursue funds made available by the recently passed Scenic Rural Preservation Bond.
None of this can be accomplished without the involvement of local organizations, including not only local government officials but the Lackawaxen River Conservancy and, of course, concerned residents. Hopefully my vision is shared by others and will be a wake-up call. Failure to plan is planning to failits our choice.
[Tom Zeterberg, P.E., is a member of the Pike County Planning Commission and a board member of the Lackawaxen River Conservancy. He was the chairperson of the County Scenic Rural Preservation Bond Ad-Hoc Committee. ]