Hundreds contribute to community plan focused on future of Sharpsburg
Nearly two years ago, Sharpsburg Neighborhood Organization executive director Brittany Reno was hoping for at least a dozen residents to participate in a community-driven project focused on improving the town.
On Jan. 31, more than 70 people flooded the Sharpsburg Municipal Building to celebrate the launch of the completed Sharpsburg Community Vision Plan, a guide to development for the next decade.
“At the beginning, it was trying to figure out which dozen people would be willing to participate,” Reno said. “But every time we had a meeting, I met with a new person who had something helpful to say, and overall it’s been an aggregation of 200 different opinions around town.”
The plan focuses on sustainability, highlighting recommended programs and policies for improvement in food, water, energy, air and equity. Projects proposed include creating a shade tree policy for parking lots and any new development in the community and prioritizing pedestrians by improving sidewalk infrastructure and making biking and public transit easier and safer. Funding for such projects could come from several sources, including the borough, grants and fundraising.
“We have some of these projects in motion already, but really we need the people to continue to be involved,” Reno said. “Basically, whatever residents were passionate about through this process, we want them to get involved with it directly in town.”
Sharpsburg is no stranger to flooding, an issue resident Justin Weaver was happy to see addressed in the plan.
“We’re right here on the river, and flooding happens every year,” Weaver said. “Managing stormwater runoff and water resources in Sharpsburg is vital.”
EvolveEA — an environmental consultant company — worked behind the scenes with the planning and research.
Reno organized a steering committee of 12 different community members — residents, local business owners and representatives of the Fox Chapel Area School District. While the committee and EvolveEA were critical in the process, hundreds more were responsible for the results.
Adrianne Laing, a resident of Sharpsburg since 2005, has been involved since the first meeting. Although not a member of the steering committee, Laing is excited to sit down with her family and read what she and other community members contributed.
“These are all such exciting topics—food, water, energy— and they are most certainly the most important to address in Sharpsburg right now,” Laing said.
Although the writing and planning are complete, Reno knows the binding of the book is just closing one chapter on the project. Now, it’s time for her and the community to embark on these plans full steam ahead, she said.
“It was seeing a bunch of apathy turned into motivation and the realization that people, even if it’s just a few, can really change the trajectory of where a town can go,” Reno said.
Christine Manganas is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.