I was born in the right county. As an avid outdoorsman, I have been fortunate to grow up in a place that offers scenic views and open spaces to its residents. Orange County’s parks and recreation system is second to none, offering more than 3,300 acres where families and vacationers can golf, hike, and picnic. Our "green edge" is important to remember during Earth Week 2014, when our community was once again making headlines for its quality of life and the positive steps we’ve taken to keep this county clean, safe, and healthy.
Orange County was recently among the first statewide to be certified under the new state Climate Smart Communities Program. Our selection was announced on Earth Day, April 22, by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joe Martens. Orange County Planning Commissioner David Church attended the ceremony in Watervliet, Albany County. The example set by Orange County proves you can grow your local economy while growing smart and environmentally safe. Furthermore, our Planning Department has set the standard for sustainable growth in the Hudson Valley and our designation as one of the first certified Climate Smart Communities proves it.
For those unfamiliar, the Climate Smart Communities Program is a coordinated, interagency partnership that supports local governments in their efforts to "meet the economic, social, and environmental challenges posed by climate change and prepare for potential weather-related impacts," according to the DEC. Designated municipalities receive analytical tools, technical support, and information such as webinars. The certification process confirms that Orange County has taken voluntary steps to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, support recycling and solid-waste management, and develop improved land-use rules.
Counties, cities, towns, and villages can join the voluntary program by adopting the Climate Smart Communities Pledge; to date, 125 local governments have taken the pledge to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions among other environmental measures. How did our community lead the way in going green? Orange County uses an energy management system to track the results of upgraded lighting, heating and cooling equipment, more efficient water fixtures, a large photovoltaic installation, and alternative fuel vehicles. The county also led the development of the Mid-Hudson Regional Sustainability Plan, a smart growth plan that emphasizes development goals in keeping with a stronger, cleaner environment. National Arbor Day, observed this year on April 25, was another opportunity for our residents to learn about how Orange County is leading the way in its environmentally friendly approach. Today’s Urban Forestry Grants, awarded by the DEC, continue the tradition of protecting trees in communities around New York State. In 2014 Orange County earned more than $55,000 in forestry grants to plant and protect trees, from Port Jervis to the City of Newburgh. As another New Yorker, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, said, "Forests are the lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people." Our greenery is yet one more reason why Orange County is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.