Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of Chester County’s agricultural and open land preservation programs and what are they?

The goal of the County’s open space programs is to preserve our quality of life by making wise investments in the program areas. The program areas are listed on the table below. The programs are structured to fund projects with maximum public benefits that attract substantial funding from other sources. Significant investments have also been made throughout the County for acquisition of additional County park land, site improvements to promote public use, and improvements to the existing County parks.

Why do these programs exist?

Chester County has been one of the fastest growing Counties in the state for the past ten years. Residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of starting these programs in 1989. As population growth has continued, so has interest in and support for the programs. As of 2013, 61% of the County’s townships have set aside significant funds for open space preservation through ballot initiative and increased taxes or by leveraging general fund revenue. Our long term quality of life depends on maintaining an appropriate balance between vibrant business areas in the urban core and the business of farming, appropriately developed suburban areas, adequately protected outlying areas, and preservation of our most significant natural resources throughout the County.

I am interested in preserving my land. Who should I talk to?

There are two cases where the County works directly with the landowner: (1) land that could be an addition to a County park (contact Steve Fromnick, Director of Facilities Management at 610-344-6220), or (2) farmland preservation (contact Geoff Shellington, Agricultural Programs Coordinator at 610-344-6504). In other cases, it may be appropriate to contact the local municipal government where the land is located. Many municipalities in Chester County are working to preserve natural areas, add to the local park system, or add to (or start) trails or greenways. Finally, Chester County is fortunate to have over a dozen private nonprofit conservation organizations working to preserve the most important parts of our remaining natural heritage. You are welcome to contact them directly - or feel free to contact Judith Thomas, Preservation Programs Coordinator, ( to discuss possible options in more detail.

How can I learn more about these programs?

General information is included in this FAQ. More detailed and current information may be available by following links to the website of the lead agency or by contacting them directly.

Program Area Lead Agency Contact Information
Vision Partnership Program (Local Land Use Planning) Chester County Planning Commission
601 Westtown Rd
Suite 270
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-6285
Community & Urban Revitalization Department of Community Development
Patrick Bokovitz, Director
601 Westtown Rd
Suite 365
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-6900
Farmland Preservation Open Space Preservation
Geoff Shellington
Agricultural Programs Coordinator
601 Westtown Rd
Suite 390
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-5656
Municipal Park Acquisition and Construction Open Space Preservation
Judith B. Thomas,
Preservation Programs Coordinator
601 Westtown Rd
Suite 390
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-5656
Preservation Partnership Program Open Space Preservation
Judith B. Thomas,
Preservation Programs Coordinator
601 Westtown Rd
Suite 390
West Chester, PA 19380
Phone: 610-344-5656

Are these programs limited to certain geographic areas?

  • Vision Partnership Program Grants (Land Use Planning): All municipalities that have entered into partnership with the County through the Vision Partnership Program may request grant funding for projects that lead to the adoption of plans or ordinances that are consistent with the County’s adopted comprehensive policy plan, Landscapes.
  • Community Revitalization Program Grants (Urban Infrastructure and Streetscapes): Grants are limited to activities consistent with a locally adopted, County approved, revitalization plan and must be located in boroughs or the city.
  • Farmland Preservation Program Grants: Grants are limited to top ranked farms in locally adopted agricultural security areas that meet minimum acreage and agricultural use requirements.
  • Municipal Park Acquisition and Facility Grants: All municipalities may apply for these grants. Funding is offered to top ranked projects that provide the highest degree of public benefit. There are no minimum acreage requirements other than the recreational facilities proposed must be able to fit on the land in an appropriate manner.
  • Preservation Partnership Program Grants (Open Space/Natural Resources): All qualified nonprofit conservation organizations may apply. Funding is offered to top ranked projects that provide the highest degree of public benefit within annual funding limitations. There are no minimum acreage requirements.

Who can apply for these grants?

Each program has its own requirements, summarized on the table below.

Program Area Eligible Applicant
Vision Partnership Program (VPP) All Chester County municipalities in the VPP
Community Revitalization Program "Urban Centers" (boroughs and the city)
Farmland Preservation Farmland owner
Municipal Park Acquisition & Construction All Chester County municipalities
Preservation Partnership Program Pre-qualified nonprofit conservation organizations

What is the process for awarding County Open Space grants?

County approved grant manuals provide detailed descriptions of each program. Applications are accepted and reviewed once a year in all programs except for grants administered by the Chester County Planning Commission (CCPC), which has two grant cycles per year. The lead agency coordinates the application review and presents their findings and recommendations to the County Commissioners. The Chester County Commissioners' funding decisions are made in public meetings, and the awards are formalized by contracts administered by lead agency staff.

What happens after the land is bought or preserved?

Municipal land acquisition programs (parks, trails, greenways), purchase of development rights/farmland preservation, or preservation of natural areas require that proper documentation be recorded with the deed to the land in the public record at the Chester County Recorder of Deeds. The required permanent legal documents apply to the current and all future owners and managers of the land.
  • Farmers who sell their development rights use the proceeds in a variety of ways depending on their unique personal and financial situation. The land remains in farming.
  • After the purchase of parkland, municipalities usually get input from the community about what facilities are most needed and how to pay for them.
  • Nonprofit groups that purchase land or development rights using Preservation Partnership Program grants typically begin fundraising to establish an endowment for annual inspections, legal defense, land management, and site improvements for public access if appropriate.

What requirements come with these grants?

All projects must provide a public benefit and result in a tangible product. The County pays for planning activities only after the plans are completed and adopted by the municipality. The County pays construction related grants (community revitalization and park facility program grants) only after approved goods and services have been purchased and paid for and only for construction activities that have been completed. Park facilities need to be maintained and used through their life expectancy and parks are monitored regularly. The County pays for the acquisition of land or conservation easements after settlement has occurred or just prior to settlement. Properties with conservation easements are monitored regularly.

How does the County make sure that the County grants are a good investment?

Farmland, municipal park, and grants to conservancies for land acquisition and preservation must be supported by appraisals that are reviewed and approved by the County. Park Facility and Community Revitalization Program grants must follow the municipal bidding requirements. All applicable federal, state and local laws must be followed.

Other than County grants, who pays for these projects?

Some amount of matching funds is required in all of these programs.
  • Additional funds for Vision Partnership Program planning grants usually come from the Commonwealth, Township, City, Borough, or some combination.
  • Matching funds for Community Revitalization Program grants come from a wide variety of federal and state grants with supplemental funding from the city or borough.
  • Other farmland preservation program funds come from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, municipalities, and private sources such as landowners who donate some of the value of their development rights.
  • Matching funds for municipal park acquisition and facility projects typically come from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), the municipal applicant, businesses, corporations, athletic leagues, and youth associations.
  • Matching funds for Preservation Partnership Program projects typically come from landowner value donations, members of the nonprofit, DCNR, municipal government partners, corporations, and foundations.

Are these County Grants tied to any state or federal programs?

The Commonwealth Agricultural Conservation Easement Purchase Program is partially paid for by “pass-through” funds from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. While a lot of County money has been invested in farmland preservation, the Commonwealth has provided some funding. Basically, these state funds "pass through" the County staff on the way to the landowner. All other grant programs administered by the department are funded directly by the County and do not receive any "pass-through" funding from the state or federal government.