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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Funding for Johnson Estate Conservancy needs support

From Vicky Bastidas, Monocacy TU Board member:

Hello All,

The Johnston Estate was the former country home of the first Mayor of Bethlehem and former Bethlehem Steel President, Archibald Johnston, and his descendants. This beautiful urban park contains not only a 23 room Mansion, but pathways connecting the nine different ecosystems and the Monocacy Creek. The Friends of Johnston have been providing free education for over 1000 students and environmental restoration with help from our friends in the community. After years of effort to protect the land from development, it is now on the verge of conservation! We need your help to secure the funding from Northampton County Council for acquisition of the Leckonby and Central Moravian Church lands to complete this iconic park for the benefit of our community. 

Natural Lands Trust, a highly skilled land conservation organization will own and manage the additional Leckonby and Central Moravian acreages.  NLT has applied to Northampton County Open Space Committee for funding for acquisition costs.

The Friends of Johnston is a group of citizens that have committed themselves to the preservation, restoration and sustainable reuse of this property for the good of all our community. 

WHAT IS THE VISION? The vision for the estate is that all of the parcels will function as one larger park even though they are under different ownership. That through collaboration with government agencies, businesses, schools and the community we will provide educational programming, stewardship, and fresh produce to the poor.

WHERE IS THE JOHNSTON ESTATE? The Johnston Estate is approximately 138 acres comprised of the 33 acre Archibald Johnston Conservation Area, the 55 acre Janet Johnston Housenick and William D. Housenick Memorial Park, the 26 acre Central Moravian Church Spiritual Center and the 18 acre Leckonby Farm. located between Christian Spring Road,Rte 191, Santee Mill, and Township line roads in Bethlehem.

WHY DOES THIS PARK BENEFIT OUR COMMUNITY? The additional acreage will complete the park area,  and provide
          buffer to the park for recreation and peace of mind
          greater area for wildlife and recreational trails, 
          community garden space 
          storm water management
          eliminate the risk of development on the parcel
          Education- for all ages from preschool through college
          Programming- bird walks, history walks, gardening native plant walks 
HOW WILL WE PAY FOR THE LAND?  Northampton County Open Space is dedicated to preserving environmentally sensitive lands. The NorCo Open Space Committee has approved the funding of the projects at $520,000.00.  Understanding that the land owners have been offered much more for their properties by developers, Natural Lands Trust has made offers above the current guidelines. Therefore the County Council will have to approve a resolution in the Open Space Ordinance for this project. to increase the allocation to a total of $657,500.00  There is enough in the 2013  budget for this year to fund these projects.

                                                6:00 pm,  THURSDAY, DECEMBER 5, 2013
                                       NORTHAMPTON COUNTY COURT HOUSE
                                                                  EASTON, PA

HOW MUCH WILL THE PARK COST AFTER IT IS ACQUIRED? There will be no additional cost to the tax payers. Natural Lands Trust Preserves are free and open to the public and the Friends are committed to working diligently to raising funds

           1) Get the word out- pass this email along 
           2) Write emails or call your council members and include the wording:
                     "I support the use of $657,500.00 of the Northampton County Open Space Funding for the 
                      acquisition of the Central Moravian Church and Leckonby Estate properties on the former 
                      Johnston Estate and request that the amendment to the Open Space Ordinance be passed at the 
                      December 5, 2013 Northampton County Council Meeting."

3) Come to the December 5, 2013 NorCo Council Meeting
4) Join the Friends of Johnston- share your time, talents or resources to help this worthy project!  

I attended the NorCo budget hearings yesterday and the council is attempting to cut the Open Space funding for 2014 by approximately $750,000.00 given that the county now receives Act 319 Marcellus Shale monies. The Council does not understand that DCNR monies are being cut and that the matching grants will not be available for acquisitions, nor do they understand that the environmental impacts of fracking effect the entire commonwealth.