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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Northampton County Receives 2015 Conservation Leadership Award

Maria Bentzoni and Bryan Cope
NorCo Council President thought that news that Northampton County recently received the 2015 Conservation Leadership Award would make a great op-ed piece. I agree, but I'm not so sure she'd like this one.

When John Brown was first elected Executive, he met with an environmental group. "I'm not a parks guy," he told them. He proved that, too, by proposing a budget that essentially gutted the County's open space program.Council restored it by taking money from the table games revenue that Brown has been hording.

He's been no friend to conservation, but Northampton County was awarded the Conservation Leadership award anyway. Maria Bentzoni and Bryan Cope, the architects of the County's Open Space Program, were excited to show off the plaque st lat week's Council meeting.

Though these two are probably far more knowledgeable than anyone about the County's open space accomplishments, and could talk about it with enthusiasm and passion. But in a sign of what is wrong with the Brown administration, they were forced to stand and cool their heels while Director of Administration Luis Campos attempted to take credit for their work.

With none of the fire that Bentzoni emits, Campos droned on about the County's remarkable open space achievements, almost making them sound like a bed-time story. He incredibly talked about changes in liocal zoning that made them possible. I'd like to know where he got that idea. But he was accurate about most of what has been achieved.

The County has invested nearly $6 million for 56 municipal park projects; $4.2 million to preserve 1,500 acres of environmentally sensitive land; has preserved nearly 14,000 acres of farmland and has created 23 miles of open, multi-use trail systems.

When Bentzoni and Cope were finally permitted to speak, they credited not just the cutrent Council and Administration, but those that came before them.

We have made great strides and hope to keep going further with your support," stated Bentzoni. .

Let's see how much Brown sets aside for open space this year.


Anonymous said...

Kudos to Maria and Bryan for administering such a fine program. Campos and Brown deserve ZERO credit for the successful open space program. If anything, they have tried to systematically dismantle it from day one. The program's founder was John Stoffa, supported by taxpayers' willingness to fund OSI with the half mil tax increase. Norco citizens should be very proud of this award-winning program.

Peter Price said...

Glad to see such a tireless advocate for farmland preservation being honored. I had the pleasure to work with Maria and Barb some years back. Its always great when people who are passionate and actually care about their work are recognized. The tug of war over the preservation issue is nothing new. Everyone wants it but no one wants the bill! Keep up the good work guys.


Anonymous said...

I worked with Maria back in the day.

Maria is the BEST.

Anonymous said...

We are meeting with Maria for our Farmland Preservation in the upcoming week. She has always been courteous and helpful every phone conversation we have had. This County is lucky to have her! Thank you Maria and Bryan.

Anonymous said...

Open Space is a racket for wealthy farmers. They should only get money for returning land to its original open space condition - woods. The state is called Penn's Woods. Google it.

Bernie O'Hare said...

it can be a racket for wealthy farmers, but most farmers do not fit into that category. Those who do are usually people who have made their money doing something else and are trying to give themselves a slice of heaven at our expense. That's why the program in place evaluates each application to safeguard against abuse, which unfortunately does sometimes happen.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Bernie for recognizing this award. There are many people who deserve credit for this award. Gordy Heller and John Stoffa had a big part in it. As I said it is not just Bryan and me. Our Farmland Preservation Board and Open Space Board deserve to be recognized for their dedication to our programs. The partners we work with, from the other agencies to the conservancies. They are all a part of this. I am very proud of the partnerships we have created and strengthen to get us to this point. We have all worked hard to achieve this honor.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Maria. The groups you mention, all of whom are volunteers, deserve recognition. But every one of them knows that you have been the spark that kept this fire glowing. John Stoffa considered you one of his top employees in a workforce with many dedicated people like you.

Anonymous said...

The local legislation and money push to preserve farmland started in the early 1990's. Many people over many years have pushed the program. Just keeping it real.

Anonymous said...

Brown hasn't done a fucking thing except gut the Open Space funds, and his lackey Campos said months ago that the program has run its intended course - which is bull crap. If it were not for the efforts of current council to find funds to partially offset what he took to use in his general fund, and everyone EXCEPT Brown and his hand-picked losers, there would be no more program. This jackass better keep his paws out of the cookie jar this coming year or the cooperating municipalities whose participation has made the program work will not cooperate any longer, and the entire program will crash.

Anonymous said...

If it were not for the Slate Belt, were Brown slithered in from, he would not have been elected. You would think he wouldn't defund Open Space, since there are a disproportionate number of advocates there.

Anonymous said...

Where did the .5 mil open space tax go? Was it ended? Where does that money go now? Slush fund?