The Environmental Stewardship Fund empowers communities to revitalize themselves in cost-effective ways that strengthen their economies, create green spaces, preserve connections to the past, and improve energy efficiency. The result is more livable communities where residents are happier and healthier.
- 320+ projects to improve community parks
- Tens of thousands of trees planted through TreeVitalize
- $2 billion in consumer spending and 25,000+ jobs generated by Pennsylvania Heritage Areas (funded in part by the Environmental Stewardship Fund)
Community Parks in Need of Repair
There are more than 5,000 community parks across Pennsylvania, and many were built decades ago. The years have taken a toll—today most of these treasured local spaces require upgrades to improve safety, modernize their facilities, and accommodate new types of games and sports. A substantial number also need to be made more accessible so that all Pennsylvanians have the chance to enjoy them.
Struggling Local Economies and Decaying Downtowns
Across Pennsylvania, hundreds of communities have fallen on hard times in the post-industrial era. Jobs have disappeared, people have moved away, and local businesses have closed. The resulting economic collapse means that residents have fewer opportunities to earn a living, receive a quality education, and live satisfying, healthy lives. Many municipalities—especially in rural areas—are struggling to chart a sustainable economic future.
Often these struggles go hand-in-hand with the decay of downtowns. Historic buildings deteriorate, businesses close, green spaces are overgrown with weeds, and roads and sidewalks fall into disrepair. What were once bustling community hubs become hollowed-out ghost towns.
Loss of Tree Cover
Besides looking nice, tree-lined streets clean the air, control stormwater, increase property values, reduce energy costs, and provide other economic and environmental benefits. Unfortunately, loss of tree cover is a growing problem in Pennsylvania—our state is losing 4,300 acres of community tree cover each year. This loss results in millions more cubic feet of stormwater runoff each year, costing millions of dollars in economic and environmental damage. When communities lack tree cover, they often face lower property values, higher energy costs, and worse air quality.
Lack of Energy Efficiency
Many buildings (such as schools and hospitals) and municipal infrastructure (such as streetlights) use aging energy systems that run on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas. These systems are unsustainable in the long term because they rely on non-renewable fuel sources that one day will be gone. They also are less efficient than newer, clean-energy-based systems, resulting in higher costs for heating, cooling, and lighting. Ultimately, taxpayers and customers bear the brunt of these costs.
Create and Enhance Community Parks
Environmental Stewardship Fund investments have supported over 320 projects to enhance existing parks or create new ones in communities throughout Pennsylvania. These projects are especially vital in small or low-income communities, where residents may have no safe places to exercise and play with their children.
Restore Tree Cover
The Environmental Stewardship Fund has helped municipalities across Pennsylvania restore their tree cover through TreeVitalize, which pays for trees and planting materials and also provides technical guidance. Altogether, TreeVitalize has planted more than 34,000 trees in communities across the state. By providing shade, trees reduce energy costs for residents. They remove and store carbon dioxide from the air, which mitigates climate change and improve air quality, and filter stormwater, which decreases pollution and flooding. Also, tree-lined sidewalks make neighborhoods and cities more attractive places to live.
Boost Local Economies and Revitalize Downtowns
The Pennsylvania Heritage Area program, supported in part by Environmental Stewardship Fund investments, showcases the unique cultural, historical, and environmental assets of 12 regions across Pennsylvania. The program promotes recreation, tourism, and education, generating $2 billion in annual consumer spending and contributing over 25,000 jobs and $790 million in labor income to the state’s economy. Much of this spending occurs in communities struggling to reinvent themselves in the 21st-century economy—often, recreation and tourism leverage the remnants of industry (such as rail-trails and historic sites) to create new economic opportunities.
Growing Greener II bond funding also helped communities invest in downtown revitalization and redevelopment, transforming neglected areas into thriving spaces for businesses, housing, and community events. Environmental Stewardship Fund grants have supported projects to restore historic buildings for productive use, beautify streetscapes, and more.
Increase Energy Efficiency
Through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority Board, Growing Greener II bond funding supported projects to make schools, hospitals, and other buildings more energy efficient by installing systems powered by alternative sources like wind, solar, and geothermal. Other projects have replaced inefficient incandescent bulbs in streetlights and parking garages with high-efficiency LED bulbs. Combined, these systems reduce energy usage by millions of kilowatts each year, ultimately saving communities money and reducing their environmental impact.