Natural & Environmental Resources Goal 4
Significant amounts of open space on the rural fringes of the community will be permanently protected from development and ultimately create a larger interconnected system of preserved land.
4.1 Develop and implement a land Conservation Plan
STRATEGY: Work cooperatively with the Land Trust for the Eastern Panhandle, the Conservation Fund and the Jefferson County Farmland Protection Board to develop and implement a local land resources conservation plan that identifies priority areas around Shepherdstown for permanent protection, with a focus on working farms and forests, land with prime agricultural soils and undeveloped properties in important watershed areas.
JUSTIFICATION: By working with local partners to preserve critical lands, the town can help to conserve these limited resources, thereby directing development away from rural and agricultural landscapes and toward areas that are more suited for development. Developing such partnerships can also support the creation of parks, greenways and other publicaly accessible open spaces as part of land conservation efforts. Working to preserve working farms will also help to strengthen the local food economy and reduce pressure to convert these critical resources into developed land uses, thereby helping to limit sprawl and preserve the agricultural heritage of the region.
4.2 Preserve Historically Significant Landscapes
STRATEGY: Work with local history groups to develop a plan for the acquisition of land for the preservation of the area where the Battle of Shepherdstown occurred as permanently protected park land. If fee simple acquisition is not feasible, opportunities for acquiring conservation easements or scenic easements should be explored.
JUSTIFICATION: The cultural heritage of the region is directly tied to the rural landscapes that surround the community, particularly with respect to the lands upon which the Battle of Shepherdstown was fought. Conserving this area in a state that is consistent with the era of its historical significance will help to reinforce the importance of the events that took place in the area during the Civil War, while also preserving the scenic landscape that is found in the rural areas around Shepherdstown.
4.3 Promote Farmland Preservation
STRATEGY: Work with local agricultural producers to acquire the donation of farmland conservation easements on working farms to guarantee their continued use for this vital purpose.
JUSTIFICATION: Preserving working farms is critical to the local economy, the health of the environment and limiting suburban sprawl. Working with groups whose mission it is to protect these working lands from develop will help to support the local food economy, particularly when tied to the development of local outlets to make produce from area farms available in the community. Providing incentives for the preservation of working lands in their current state also helps to prevent suburban sprawl by removing financial barriers to maintaining the land in its current state and enhances environmental sustainability by limiting the creation of new impervious surfaces or converting land from undeveloped to developed land uses.
4.4 Develop a Greenway Plan
STRATEGY: Develop a greenway corridor plan in coordination with Jefferson County and use the Town’s development regulations to require the dedication of designated greenway corridors in conjunction with new development. Where development has already occurred along a corridor, work to secure easements or donations of land for the preservation of greenway corridors.
JUSTIFICATION: Like other bicycle and pedestrian facilities, greenway trails can provide important regional connections. Collaborating with Jefferson County to identify and develop these corridors will ensure a greater degree of connectivity throughout the area and ensure that new development outside of the corporate limits can be connected to a larger regional greenway network.
4.5 Protect Landscapes Along the Potomac River
STRATEGY: Develop a plan, in coordination with Jefferson County, Washington County, MD and local conservation organizations to protect the scenic beauty and environmental quality of the lands along the Potomac River through the acquisition of scenic easements and conservation easements on lands that, if developed, could significantly alter the landscape of the river through the area.
JUSTIFICATION: The scenic beauty of the landscape along the Potomac River is part of the historic, cultural and natural heritage of the town and the region as a whole. Preserving the river landscape from development or other potentially negative visual influences will help the region retain its identity as a bucolic rural region of the Potomac River basin. Coordinating these efforts, whether related to acquiring conservation easements or introducing development restrictions, should be a regional effort given the scale and extent of the geography involved. Therefore, partnering with Jefferson County and Washington County will be critical to ensuring the success of this strategy.
4.6 Promote the Use of Conservation Subdivision Design Techniques
STRATEGY: Encourage the use of conservation subdivision techniques to protect open space in rural areas where residential development is occurring.
JUSTIFICATION: In contrast to conventional residential subdivision design techniques, conservation subdivision design techniques integrate residential development into the existing natural landscape in which they are situated rather than attempting to alter it. This type of subdivision design technique is particularly suited to allowing for the preservation of significant natural features on a site, or to allow for the continued use of a working farm. This is typically achieved by clustering new development on the site into areas that will have the lowest impact on the environment or character of the property, and in the case of working farms this technique allows for the monetization of an asset (land) that can help to support the ongoing operation of the agricultural venture on the property.
4.7 Partner with Environmental Organizations to Manage Protected Lands
STRATEGY: Engage the Freshwater Institute and similar organizations to assist the town and local landowners in implementing best practices for the management of conserved lands.
JUSTIFICATION: Protecting land from development through a conservation easement or other means is only part of the overall goal of land conservation efforts. Once protected, these lands need to be managed properly, either through maintenance or restoration efforts, to ensure that they serve the purpose for which their conservation was intended. Providing technical assistance and other resources to the owners of conserved lands through partnerships with local environmental and land stewardship organizations will help the community receive a greater return on the investments that have been made in land conservation.
4.8 Protect Scenic Byways
STRATEGY: Work with WVDOT, the MPO and Jefferson County to establish Scenic Byways along major road corridors in rural areas leading to town.
JUSTIFICATION: The visual aesthetic of the rural highways and farm to market roads that lead into Shepherdstown help to shape the character of the town and give it its context in the rural landscape. Preserving the scenic quality of these rural roads, through land conservation, viewshed easements, or restrictions on development, will help to maintain the character of the rural areas that set the stage for a traveler’s entry into the heart of Shepherdstown. As the majority of the roadways lead into the community area outside of the geographic scope of the town’s jurisdiction, it will be necessary to partner with other governments and agencies to help realize the implementation of this strategy.