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Trail's future in Franklin Co. looks secure

February 15, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- The 229 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania received a promise for additional protections when Gov. Ed Rendell signed Act 24 last summer.

At the heart of the law is a call for trailside zoning, something already in place in the five municipalities through which the trail runs in Franklin County. They are Washington, Quincy, Guilford, Greene and Southampton townships.

Franklin County's Bureau of Forestry land also better positions it to ensure longtime trail preservation, County Planning Director Phil Tarquino said.

"Most of the trail in Franklin County runs through Michaux State Forest, so those are public protected lands," Tarquino said.

Act 24 requires the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to provide resources that will aid municipalities in limiting the encroachment of development along the trail. The law, which also involves the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, mentions protecting the view and nearby historic landmarks, as well.

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The 58 municipalities with the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania have very different needs, according to Ed LeClear, a DCED community planner.

Some, like the townships in Franklin County, have forest land surrounding the trail. Others, like Duncannon in Perry County, are towns with the trail winding around hotels and other businesses, LeClear said.

The legislation was birthed from outrage concerning proposed construction of an automobile racing club beside the trail in Monroe County.

The DCED will host regional forums in March to help municipal officials identify ways to better protect the Appalachian Trail. LeClear said the appropriate scale of protection varies by location.

"Essentially we'll have a menu and let them choose some things from the menu," he said.

Washington Township Manager Mike Christopher said his municipality has been very proactive in trail protection because of its forest conservation zoning. Several planning commission members from the township said they hope to attend forums to learn about any additional protections available.

"We all need to take into consideration noise pollution, as well. ... It's more broad-based than where the trail is on the ground," said Christopher Firme, a township supervisor who is on the planning commission.

Quincy Township Supervisor Bob Gunder said he and his colleagues don't anticipate needing to make many changes to their zoning ordinance as a result of Act 24.

"To our benefit, most of the trail, if not all, is in our forest conservation district. Most of it is state-owned ground," he said.

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