As concerned citizens from Elizabethtown Borough, Mount Joy Township, and other surrounding municipalities, we respectively submit this document outlining our concerns regarding the Bear Creek Intermediate School proposal.
We recognize the need for additional classroom space as well as the difficulties associated with a project of this size. We believe Lancaster County’s Long Range Transportation Plan (referred to simply as the Charter for Change) should be a guiding document in such complex projects. Interestingly, the Bear Creek proposal appears to contradict many of the principles in the Charter for Change. We request you consider these concerns as you review the proposal submitted by the school district.
- The proposed school has numerous transportation challenges
- The proposed location is not easily accessible for foot and bike traffic. Even the closest neighborhoods cannot walk or bike due to narrow roads and the lack of sidewalks. To make for a more “walkable” school, the district has proposed a walking path connecting High Street with the Bear Creek location. Unfortunately, this proposed path winds through an isolated, wooded area making it impractical for children 9 to 11 years old.
- The proposed location is not easily accessible for auto traffic. Sheaffer Road (and many of the surrounding artillery roads) is rural and not suitable for the increased car and bus traffic a school of this size will require. Because of its limited access, this school site is not easily accessible by car from many parts of the surrounding community.
- The school district could increase accessibility by building an access road to East High Street. This would alleviate traffic on the more rural roads and make the school more accessible for emergency vehicles, parents, and staff. Elizabethtown Borough also supports the construction of such an access road. However, the school district opposes the road, claiming it will negatively affect its athletic facilities master plan. This plan, however, shows that such a road can be constructed with minimal impact.
- The district could also increase accessibility (as well as save on transportation and fuel costs) by placing the school on district-owned land next to East High Elementary rather than isolating it from the main school campus.
- The proposed school has numerous infrastructural challenges
- The rural roads accessing the school site will need significant improvements to handle the car traffic a school this size will require. The school district plans to improve Sheaffer Road from the school entrance to Ridge Road. No other improvements are slated.
- The sidewalks surrounding this school are unsuitable for any foot traffic. Only very recently (June 2008) did the district announce the construction of one sidewalk from the corner of Sheaffer Road to Violet’s Path (approximately 100 yards). No other sidewalks exist within the traffic study area.
- By making the new school more accessible to the existing campus (either by locating the school on High Street or by building an access road connecting to High Street), the new school would share much of the existing infrastructure.
- The proposed school deserves and requires inter-municipal cooperation
- Both Elizabethtown Borough and Mount Joy Township have requested greater cooperation with the school district regarding this proposal. Elizabethtown Borough strongly suggested the district place the new school on district-owned land next to East High Elementary. Despite the borough’s serious concerns with the Bear Creek location, the district continues with its plans. Since this proposed school will affect the community for years to come, it needs to be thoroughly vetted by both citizens and elected officials. In short, it needs the “blessing” of the local municipalities.
- The proposed school deserves and requires thorough planning
- The school district states that this project began in 2005 and that it has been well publicized. While the “growth” planning began in 2005, the school district did not announce this specific plan for Bear Creek Intermediate School until July 2007. Prior to that time, the district was planning to renovate East High Street Elementary and use that building as an intermediate school. Additionally, a conservation center was to be built in Bear Creek wetlands that will now house the intermediate school.
- The traffic study did not include all roads within a 1-mile radius. Instead, it covered only those roads within Mount Joy Township boundaries. There are intersections of serious concern (for example, Chestnut Street and College Avenue, Mount Joy Street and College Avenue, Chestnut Street and Park Street) that were not included in the study. The traffic study also failed to take into account traffic associated with Elizabethtown College.
- The district has only very recently (June 2008) made public their “Athletic Facilities Master Plan.” The district explains that the Bear Creek Project is integrally tied to the athletics plan. If this is true, both deserve more reflection and input than the proposed construction timetable allows.
- Placing the school along High Street on district-owned land seems to be a more logical move when considering transportation, infrastructure, and municipality desires. It appears that the district, when planning its future land-use options, does not want to sacrifice any of its extracurricular wants (athletic facilities) for its curricular needs (classrooms).
We appreciate your taking time to consider the impact this school will have on Elizabethtown Borough, Mount Joy Township and the surrounding municipalities. We believe that this project can be the “flagship project” in implementing the Charter for Change.
 According to Charter for Change, “existing patterns of travel and land use are not sustainable in the long term—we will have to change our travel habits out of practical necessity.” The plan “supports changes in school sitting requirements at the state level to locate schools in areas that can be reached by bicycling and walking.” It calls for “compact urban forms [to] promote efficient use of land and efficient transportation.” It also suggests “land use planning should promote multimodal transportation.” Desired characteristics for transportation include: “roadways [that] are context-sensitive and upgraded with trees and landscaping; transportation systems [with which] environmental impacts are minimized; [and] systems [which] conserve land, water, historic, and cultural resources, and encourages reduced energy consumption.” See Charter for Change.
 See the district’s Campus Athletic Facilities Study on the EASD school web site for information regarding this walking path. The pathway is marked with a dashed line.
 See the district’s Campus Athletic Facilities Study on the EASD school web site
 The Charter for Change warns us that “though improvement needs are increasing, tax revenues to address those needs are threatened by a slowing economy and competing demands on limited resources.” See Charter for Change.
 See Posts in editorials on this site for letters from Elizabethtown Borough and Mount Joy Township.
 The Charter for Change calls on “government and other organizations [to work] together to achieve mutual transportation goals.” See Charter for Change.