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System 4 – Growing Greener (GG)


Our city is made up of natural resource areas, parks and open spaces, and an urban environment that has adapted over time to coexist with nature. These elements are balanced so that Lancaster is more resilient and prepared for the impacts of climate change. The city is “growing greener,” with better air and water quality, an expanded urban forest, a restored Conestoga River, and more sustainable living. Residents will benefit through better health, more opportunities for social and physical activity, and a stronger local economy. 


Prior to European settlement, the area now known as Lancaster City was a nearly continuous old growth forest inhabited by indigenous peoples. Today, Lancaster is a densely developed community that has limited remaining examples of its natural heritage. The Conestoga River and a few small patches of woodland are the only reminders of what once existed here (Figure 3-8).

Figure 3-8: Green Systems. Lancaster has a limited amount of green space, with most undeveloped land located along the Conestoga River and on urban parks, campuses, and cemeteries.

Numerous environmental challenges have emerged during the city’s history. Many of these persist today, including inequitable distribution of trees and green spaces, poor air quality, and combined sanitary-storm sewer overflows (CSOs) into the Conestoga River. Many of the area’s streams are considered impaired for aquatic life. 

Lancaster City is proactively responding to these challenges. The City is a leader within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and among small- to mid-sized municipalities nationwide in its use of green infrastructure to treat stormwater and reduce CSOs. It has taken a holistic approach to managing urban runoff and incorporates low impact development into nearly all capital improvement projects, including park renovations, new buildings, street reconstruction, and even public art (Figure 3-9). Green infrastructure provides a host of other benefits, such as beautifying the city, improving mental health, sequestering carbon, and mitigating summer heat.

Figure 3-9: Green Infrastructure Projects. The green dots indicate stormwater infrastructure projects and other municipal projects designed to improve environmental quality.

Lancaster City has only begun to reap the benefits of its urban greening efforts. As extreme weather events become more common, it is more important than ever that the City develop resiliency strategies that will protect life and property. Restoring and protecting the environment can make Lancaster more livable and ensure the continued success and health of the community. 

The Comprehensive Plan engagement process and analysis revealed a set of core issues relating to growing greener. These include: 

  • Improving water quality in the Conestoga River and other waterways
  • Enhancing the number and quality of parks, recreational facilities, and open spaces
  • Ensuring that green spaces are accessible to everyone
  • Overcoming barriers to tree planting and preservation, particularly in underserved neighborhoods
  • Investing in resilient public infrastructure that provides equitable benefits 
  • Adopting practical, progressive policies to address climate change 
  • Enacting regulations and incentives to achieve environmental goals 
  • Investing in environmental initiatives that improve quality of life and the economy

The policies and actions below respond to these issues. They are divided into four major elements:

  1. Natural Resources
  2. Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces 
  3. Sustainable Built Environment
  4. Climate Change



Objective: Conserve and restore natural resources that are essential to the function of local ecosystems.

Policy GG–1.1: Land Conservation 

Identify important natural resource areas and proactively work toward their conservation. This may include fee simple acquisition, easements, and community partnerships. Priority properties may include riparian buffers, floodplains, steep slopes, wooded/forested tracts, trail connections, sensitive habitat, and other areas critical to achieving long-term environmental objectives.

Action GG–1.1A: Natural Resources Inventory

Create an inventory of natural assets to identify the types, locations, and quality of environmental resources in and around the city. The inventory should serve as a basis for protection and a baseline for monitoring conditions over time. City-owned properties with natural resources should be identified for future planning and protection.

Policy GG–1.2: Natural Hydrology 

Restore elements of natural hydrology as an element of the City’s green infrastructure program. Identify opportunities to reveal or restore historic stream beds, enhance existing wetlands, and reconnect parts of the natural hydrologic system altered by past development. (see also policies in Chapter 5 on Conestoga River restoration and management)

Action GG–1.2A: Floodplain Management

Update the City’s floodplain management regulations to balance the beneficial functions of floodplains as natural resource amenities with inherent risks to structural land uses. Floodplain regulations should consider climate change, future increases in flood risk, and development limitations. 

Policy GG–1.3: Biophilic City and Habitat Creation

Establish larger and more continuous habitat corridors that extend from beyond the city into Lancaster neighborhoods. Connect existing urban forests, wetlands, the Conestoga River, and other waterways and integrate these natural areas into the urban fabric. Potential locations for improvement include streetscapes, rooftops, backyards, plazas, and other public places. Habitat expansion should be coordinated with long-term planning objectives, especially for trails, parks, the urban tree canopy, and stormwater.

Policy GG–1.4: Coexisting with Wildlife

Improve co-existence between people and wildlife, including animals that have adapted to the urban environment and special status species that may be locally present. Promote the use of native plant species and control invasive plants.

Policy GG–1.5: Water Efficiency and Conservation

Promote water efficiency and conservation through municipal and community-wide programs. Reducing water use through technology and behavioral change is good stewardship of a natural resource, financially responsible, and can reduce wastewater entering the City’s combined sewer system. Incorporate best practices in the City’s building codes, landscape design standards, water conservation initiatives, and environmental education programs. 

Policy GG–1.6: Water Quality 

Work with surrounding communities and regional partners to implement actions that improve water quality and minimize impacts associated with development. Encourage Low Impact Development and other techniques that retain urban runoff and filter stormwater before it reaches streams and rivers.

Action GG–1.6A: Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Implement the City’s green stormwater infrastructure plan. Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) impact the health of the Conestoga River and pose a health risk to recreational users of the river. The “Green It! Lancaster Plan” is a means to both reduce CSOs and achieve a healthier and more sustainable community. 


Objective: Offer high-quality parks that are green, welcoming, and near all residents—serving as places of respite, recreation, and social gathering.

Policy GG–2.1: Parks and Recreational Facilities 

Create a highly accessible and high-quality system of parks, recreational facilities, and open spaces. Ensure that parks are appropriately designed for key user groups, consistently maintained, and provide a safe and welcoming environment for all residents. 

Action GG–2.1A: Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Planning

Update the City’s Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Master Plan through a process involving extensive public engagement and thorough existing conditions analysis. Create a plan for an accessible, intergenerational, interconnected, and multipurpose system that meets diverse community needs. Continue to implement existing park plans.

Action GG–2.1B: Recreational Facilities for New Development

Update the parks and recreation requirements in the City’s Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance. The Pennsylvania Municipal Planning Code permits municipalities to require new developments to construct, dedicate, reserve, or pay fees in lieu of providing park and recreation facilities. Review the current provisions to ensure they meet industry best practices, reflect current land and construction costs, and align with City planning initiatives. 

Policy GG–2.2: Equitable Access to Parks 

Strive for equitable access to parks and open space across the city. Focus acquisition and improvement efforts on areas that are underserved by parks relative to the city as a whole, particularly in higher-density areas that lack private backyards. Explore joint use of school facilities and other public lands for recreation in underserved areas. 

Policy GG–2.3: Interconnected Parks and Trail System

Establish connections between parks, recreational facilities, open spaces, and the communities they serve. Connectivity may be achieved through trails, enhanced streetscapes and public rights of way, improved wayfinding signage, land acquisition and easements, and other means. Priorities include filling open space gaps within the city and connecting local parks to regional and countywide networks. 

Policy GG–2.4: Multipurpose Green Infrastructure

Design parks, recreational facilities, and open spaces to serve multiple environmental purposes, including stormwater and flood management, urban heat island mitigation, habitat creation and expansion, and more. Properties that are low-lying, along waterways, and/or can be made more permeable present good opportunities for multipurpose green infrastructure. 

Policy GG–2.5: Private Open Space

Recognize the importance of private open space lands such as cemeteries, institutional uses, recreational courses or fields, and agricultural properties, to the open space network, the visual character of the city, and the quality of the environment. 


Objective: Promote a sustainable built environment through best practices in the construction and maintenance of buildings, landscape, and infrastructure.

Policy GG–3.1: Green Buildings

Promote the use of green building methods in new construction and rehabilitation projects. Greener buildings can reduce energy use and related greenhouse gas emissions, while making housing healthier and more affordable. Offset the costs of new regulatory requirements with incentives for innovative design and construction.

Policy GG–3.2: Sustainable Community Strategies

Encourage sustainable community planning principles, such as microgrids (for energy generation), bioswales and rain gardens (for stormwater) and local food production. This could include the application of Eco District planning strategies to support more sustainable living.

Policy GG–3.3: Solid Waste Reduction 

Support municipal and communitywide programs that reduce solid waste and convert waste streams to valuable resources. Salvaging materials from construction and demolition projects, diverting organic waste for composting, recycling, e-cycling, and consumer education are examples of strategies that can help reduce waste streams and related greenhouse emissions. 

Action GG–3.3A: Composting Pilot Program

Develop a pilot program to support composting by residents and businesses. The program should accommodate multiple organic waste streams, including yard waste and commercial food waste. 

Policy GG–3.4: Environmental Literacy

Lead by example to further environmental literacy and empower people to create a more sustainable city. Opportunities to educate the community about environmental stewardship include parks, green buildings, and municipal operations such as public works and street lighting. Invest in infrastructure and programs to support these education efforts. 

Policy GG–3.5: Tree Protection and Urban Forestry

Protect, maintain, and expand Lancaster’s urban tree canopy. Trees create shade, reduce energy costs, support wildlife, provide natural beauty, and absorb stormwater and carbon. Seek ways to expand the urban forest through street tree planting, robust tree preservation and maintenance programs, and engagement of the community and local partners.

Action GG–3.5A: Urban Tree Canopy 

Prioritize projects that offer multiple benefits, such as creating shade, reducing stormwater runoff, and enhancing habitat. 


Objective: Mitigate and adapt to the accelerating impacts of climate change, with an emphasis on renewable energy and resilience to environmental shocks and stresses.

Policy GG–4.1: Urban Heat Island Mitigation

Reduce urban heat islands across the city through tree planting and preservation, green and cool roofs, impervious surface reduction, and green stormwater infrastructure. Prioritize areas with heat-vulnerable residents. 

Policy GG–4.2: Resilient Infrastructure

Plan, design, and construct infrastructure that increases Lancaster’s ability to withstand, recover from, and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Incorporate resiliency strategies into all capital improvement projects, so that investments are equitable, climate resilient, resource efficient, and environmentally sustainable. Explore existing and emerging models and programs to understand best practices and explore their applicability in Lancaster City. 

Policy GG–4.3: Energy Conservation and Efficiency

Promote more efficient use of energy through weatherization, conservation, use of energy-efficient fixtures and appliances, application of energy-saving technologies, and environmental education. Encourage site planning and development practices that utilize solar access to reduce heating and cooling needs. 

Policy GG–4.4: Alternative Energy 

Support the development and use of community-scale alternative energy, which may include community solar, power purchase agreements, microgrids, fuel cells, district geothermal, and other sources. Identify capable partners and funding sources to develop community energy resources. 

Action GG–4.4A: Solar Power Generation

Study, plan, and construct solar array(s) at Oyster Point (and other feasible City-owned locations) to collect and produce solar power for municipal use and other Citywide applications. 

Action GG–4.4B: Anaerobic Digester

Explore the feasibility of constructing an anaerobic digester to turn biosolids from the City’s wastewater treatment plant into combustible “green” methane, which could assist in powering the facility and generating electricity for sale back to the power grid. 

Policy GG–4.5: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change through coordinated efforts relating to land use, buildings, energy systems, transportation, utilities, and environmental stewardship. 

Action GG–4.5A: Climate Action Plan

Implement the City’s 2019 Municipal Climate Action Plan and update portions where appropriate. Prioritize projects with the greatest projected reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and those that create energy security for critical community facilities and services. Incorporate new and innovative technologies that may achieve the general goals of the plan. Use savings to fund additional efforts.

Action GG–4.5B: Municipal Fleet Conversions

Further analyze and enact changes to the City’s municipal fleet management, including replacing more gas-powered vehicles with electric vehicles and capturing efficiencies through vehicle sharing practices and on-demand services.