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Riparian Buffer Support

From the Advocacy Committee

March 4, 2024

Why We Support Riparian Buffers

Many of us have been following the news reports on the indictment and subsequent settlement with a Camp Hill resident on charges of illegally cutting the grass on Creek Road.

While this matter has been legally resolved it seems like a good time to explain why the Camp Hill Borough is allowing grass to grow so long in Willow Park and along the Conodoguinet Creek – the so-called “riparian buffer” -- and why we should all be supporting it.

Camp Hill, along with thousands of other Pennsylvania municipalities, is required to reduce runoff into its streams, and these riparian buffers, as unsightly as they may be to some people, play a critical role in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay, which is fed by the Susquehanna River, which in turn has as two of its major tributaries the Conodoguinet and the Yellow Breeches creeks.

The Chesapeake Bay is our country’s largest estuary; it is among the most productive and valuable ecosystems in the world. Today, its health and resilience are threatened by extensive pollution from lawn, garden, and farm fertilizers, as well as automobile exhaust, wastewater, septic systems, and stormwater runoff.

There is a complex web of federal, state, county, and local laws, and regulations, as well as regional environmental agreements that govern how we manage the health of our waterways, and Camp Hill, just like every other community, is subject to them. Suffice it to say that experts agree that riparian buffers work. They can retain more than 300,000 pounds of sediment per acre per year, reduce nitrogen from agricultural runoff by 68 percent, and are essential to feed, shelter, and provide travel paths to more than 95 percent of all terrestrial wildlife species in North America, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, mammals, and beneficial insects such as pollinators.

Here in Camp Hill, we may not like the way the long grass looks, but it helps prevent silt from entering Chesapeake Bay, and negatively impacting the health of our plants and marine animals. We may wish things could stay the same, but they don’t, particularly when we are making up for many years of overuse and abuse of our critical waterways!

Our public parks and waterways are just that – public. Individuals have never had the right to landscape public parks or make unilateral decisions about water management. Cutting the grass in a public park to protest the environmental public policy that was duly adopted, like any other act of defacing public property, in fact tramples on the fundamental democratic principle of the rule of law.

As we face a future of increasingly serious environmental challenges, we urge Camp Hill Democrats to stand up in calm and respectful conversations with our neighbors for riparian buffers and the many other ways our local, state, and federal governments are working to protect the environment of Camp Hill, the mid-state, Pennsylvania, the United States, and the world!

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