Lancaster’s draft comprehensive plan calls for a new orientation toward the Conestoga River, one that reverses more than a century of abuse and neglect of the winding waterway.
The river “has been treated as a sewer for more than a century,” the plan says. Instead, it and its riverfront should be viewed “as immense resources that can contribute in unique ways” to the area’s identity and quality of life.
The main elements of the vision are as follows:
- Abandon attempts to develop housing on Sunnyside peninsula, and instead turn it into a nature and recreation preserve, anchored by an “Environmental Center of Excellence.”
- Establish recreational amenities along the river, including a greenway, boat launches and in-river amenities such as a whitewater course or ropes course.
- Revitalize the Engleside and Bridgeport areas. Both areas have potential to become vibrant mixed-use hubs with direct public connections to the river.
- Reuse the Youth Intervention Center. The YIC is highly underused, with only a handful of individuals housed there. The city should either seek opportunities to relocate the YIC’s services and redevelop the site, or seek other tenants for the building if that isn’t feasible.
- Enhance Conestoga Pines Park and the gateway to Lancaster County Central Park.
“I’m excited,” said Todd Roy, who is the founder and executive director of the Conestoga River Club. He said he’s impressed by how well the city listened to the community, and said the vision for the Conestoga corridor “speaks for me, the guy who loves the river.”
Paula Jackson is the city’s former chief planner. There have been multiple attempts to develop housing on Sunnyside, but it simply isn’t a suitable site, she said, citing its geology as one factor. She said she’s “very happy” with the change in approach.
“The river is such a resource,” she said. “This is much better.”