BETHLEHEM — As a fun and interactive way to gather information about its most beloved vistas and open spaces, the town is inviting residents to get out their cameras and capture Bethlehem’s natural scenic beauty.
“People have different ideas about which scenic views and open spaces are important to them, so we want to hear — and see — from as many residents as possible,” said Karen Shaw, who was hired part-time at the town’s Department of Planning nine months ago to assist specifically with open space planning. “The photo survey is part of an ongoing effort to identify the town’s open space resources and to adopt an open space plan that could be used as one tool to help protect the town’s community character, natural resources and open space.”
Residents are invited to submit digital photos of their favorite scenic views around the town — a favorite picnic spot, for instance, or that meadow with the wildflowers on the drive into work — between now and July 28. The images and their locations will be used to inform mapping of important open spaces in town, said Shaw. Selected photos may be displayed at town meetings, in public areas and on the town’s Facebook page.
To participate, email your digital photos to Shaw at [email protected] by Friday, July 28, with the subject line: Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey. In the body of the email, provide your name, address and phone number; location or cross-streets where the photo was taken; and a brief explanation of why the photo shows something important to you.
Throughout the summer and fall, the public is also encouraged to participate in additional town open space planning events, “so that all voices and views are incorporated into the ongoing planning process.”
During the upcoming Town Board meeting, Wednesday, June 14, a series of draft open space values maps will be presented to initiate a public comment period over the summer and fall. These maps will be displayed for comment at the Bethlehem Public Library during the month of July. During a Town Board meeting in July, a presentation of “Bethlehem’s Wildlife Habitats” will be given by staff at the Hudson River Estuary Program.
Additionally, town staff will have draft maps available for comment and discussion at the Delmar Farmers Market on Saturday, Aug. 5. In the early fall, the town will host two public workshops, in September and in October, where revised open space value maps will be used to develop the town’s open space plan.
For more information about the Scenic Bethlehem Photo Survey or about Bethlehem’s open space planning efforts, visit www.townofbethlehem.org and follow the Open Space Planning tab, or call Shaw at (518) 439-4955 ext. 1106. She will also be available to answer questions at the Bethlehem Bike Expo on Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to noon, at an information table near the Adams Street and Hudson Avenue “hub.”
This useful and detailed map of Bethlehem’s Open and Natural Spaces identifies the natural systems in Bethlehem that benefit the community, such as clean air, clean water and flood protection, and serve as indicators of potential to provide habitats for plants and animal species.
“The Hudson River Estuary and its watershed is a region of remarkable beauty, historical and economic significance, and high biological diversity. The region, comprising only 13.5% of the land area in New York, contains nearly 85% of the bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species found in the state,” wrote Ingrid Haeckel of the state Department of Environmental Conservation in this summary of Bethlehem’s natural areas and wildlife. “Local municipalities can play a key role in conserving this natural heritage and the ecological processes that sustain it. By identifying important areas for habitat and wildlife, municipalities are better equipped to pursue conservation opportunities and make informed landuse decisions. This proactive approach to planning can help municipalities avoid the costs of urban and suburban sprawl, maintain community character and quality of life, and preserve the many benefits, or ecosystem services, that healthy, natural systems provide to present and future generations.”
Scenic shutterbugs should be sure to respect private property, said Shaw. Do not enter property if unsure whether it is open to the public; take photos from a public road, sidewalk or path. Also note: by emailing photos to the survey, the Town of Bethlehem assumes permission to use and display photos digitally or in print form, without credit, for planning and public education purposes.
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