UPOS History 2002-2010Recent Events (2009-2010)
Early History of UPOS (2002- 2003)
The articles of incorporation and bylaws making Upper Providence for Open Space a state nonprofit organization were adopted on February 5, 2002, at the first annual membership meeting.
For several months prior, a group of community members had worked together, concerned about developments across the township: the Hammond tract between Ridley Creek Road and Hunt Club Lane; a nine-acre urban woodland off Idlewild Lane; and the Lavin tract (Media Wetlands), 35 pristine acres next to Ridley Creek, the former site of a nursing home. Nine persons were elected as founding board members: Bertie Bonner, Mike Hoppus, Martha Maran, Bob Church, Bob Ferry, Jean Wallace, Michelle Janmey, Steve Miller and Jayne Garrison; later Bill Brainerd, Jane Ferry, Kathy Bepler, Cynthia John and Ashley Nagle joined the board, replacing others. Jean was UPOS’s first president, and Martha, who was VP, succeeded her.
Three action teams were formed: membership/fundraising, land use and education/publicity. Membership was to build financial and technical resources, with a goal of 200 members by 2002. Land use goals included monitoring township developments, updating the township comprehensive plan, ordinance research, zoning and historic preservation. Publicity’s goals included reaching out to the community via a newsletter, brochure and public forums, including a range of speakers at membership meetings, and staffing a booth at the Media “Super Sunday” event.
UPOS’s initial focus was “walking and loop trails, recreation spaces both large and small, and bringing that vision into reality”. Strategies to achieve this vision included a referendum to publicly fund the purchase of open space or condemnation of the Lavin tract. We investigated park and trail maps of neighboring townships: Edgemont, Newtown Square, Nether Providence and Springfield. UPOS’s first contribution to like-minded groups was $15 for “Rails to Trails”. Trail-blazing at Scott Park was an early initiative to illustrate UPOS’s “commitment to the community.”
Bertie Bonner, chair of land use worked on a map to pre-identify open space so UPOS could be less reactive and more proactive, before properties were sold for development. UPOS felt it was time for our township to “get on the bandwagon” of overwhelming public support for open space throughout the region, and acquisition of the Media Wetlands was viewed as an important site for the township to protect.
Development of the 38-acre Creighton tract, and Mineral Hill (across the creek from the Lavin tract) became new concerns in early 2003. The chair of the Township Council requested draft wording and a total amount from our group for an open space ballot question. By March 2003 “Open Space Benefits You” was adopted as the slogan on bright orange yard signs as part of a full-fledged campaign to pass a municipal bond issue, including a comprehensive door to door effort to reach 2,000 voters using a Talking Points fact sheet and trained volunteers.
On March 20, 2003, the township overwhelmingly in every district passed a $6 million open space initiative (enough to buy the $3 million Lavin tract and more), thanks to the devoted efforts of many hardworking individual UPOS members. 2003 ended with a UPOS membership of 100 households, 154 individuals.
UPOS in Post Ballot Question Years (2004-2006)
UPOS continued its fight to have the township spend some of the ballot money to save the 34-acre Lavin Tract. The board of UPOS engaged Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture) to prepare for a hearing of the proposal by the Department of Environmental Protections (DEP) to appeal the combined impact of this and two other projects in close proximity; a 375,000 square foot office complex proposed by the Henderson Group in Middletown Township on the Mineral Hill property (Elwyn’s) and the 50-house residential development proposed on the Creighton property along Kirk Road east of Ridley Creek Road.
Together with Middletown Township Land Conservancy (MTLC) and ChesterRidleyCrum Watershed Association (CRC), we forged a coalition to retain the services of Cahill Associates, environmental consultants, and Schmid & Co., consulting ecologists, as well as to garner the support of numerous experts. (The Delaware County Safe Drinking Water Coalition had also engaged Dr. Schmid to study the Creighton proposal).
In March 2004, the township acquired the Lavin tract from the developer for $3,525,000, who took care of demolition of the house, removal of oil tanks and additional cleanup of the property. The township received $275,000 state and county grants towards this purchase. Barraged by more than 100 letters of request, DEP granted a hearing for the three projects. As the Lavin tract was under contract to be saved, we focused on the shortcomings of the Henderson and Creighton proposals. The DEP sent a deficiency letter that outlined 13 points for the Creighton property and found many problems with the Henderson Group’s proposal. The Henderson Group has decided not to acquire the property, and UPOS sent a letter in support of The Natural Lands Trust grant to DCNR to acquire and preserve a portion of Mineral Hill.
UPOS continued its efforts to preserve the Media Wetlands and Scott Park for future generations. In May 2004 members of UPOS participated in our first Scott Park Day to improve the parcel next to the Lavin Tract. Since then every year, the group has continued to maintain and improve Scott Park and the Lavin tract (now part of Scott Park).