Carbon County voters will decide whether or not to allow the county to borrow millions to preserve land and water quality | Poconos and Coal Region

“Have you had this view all your life? I asked 73-year-old Dick Foder, looking at his farm.

“Oh yes,” he said.

“Is it going to stay like this?” I asked.

“It will stay like this forever,” he said resolutely.

Our conversation unfolded on his glorified go-kart as we roamed Fedor’s 180-acre unspoilt farm in Carbon County.

“A lot of people we don’t even know yet are going to benefit from it in the future. That’s the point of the referendum,” he said as he drove.

A referendum called Carbon County Water, Farms and Land is on the ballot in the Nov. 8 election. If voters approve, the county could borrow up to $10 million over the next 20 years to better fund farmland, wildlife habitat and open space preservation, especially near rivers, lakes and streams. This would help maintain the quality of the watershed.

“So your concern is that views like this could be spoiled by development?”

“Yeah,” Dan Kunkle replied as we looked at a view with yellow, orange and red leaf trees near the Lehigh-Carbon county line.

For 20 years, Kunkle led the rehabilitation of Lehigh Gap Nature Reserve. Since January, he’s been touring the county locally with an emphasis on preserving the best parts of Carbon, not bashing the development. He has the support of the three county commissioners.

“We would like this to be directed to places where it would not destroy our natural resources. We want to help our residents but not destroy what makes Carbon County so special,” he said.

He admits Lehigh Valley fears, such as warehouses, are a factor, as the county doesn’t have a lot of preservation funds. He adds that outdoor recreation is a huge financial driver for the local economy. New developments, with the need for new roads, new lighting, water and sewage systems, are actually very expensive for counties.

For taxpayers, how much would all this cost?

Even if all the money is borrowed at once, $10 million would be $1.80 per month. But that’s not how it will work. Money is only borrowed for each project, so taxpayers only pay what is due at that time. Kunkle says that with matching funds and grants, the money could grow to more than $30 million.

Back at Fedor’s we drove to a huge, majestic white oak tree with sprawling limbs that stands alone on top of a hill overlooking several valleys below.

“The woman I bought the farm from was born in 1885. She said when she was little the tree was the same size,” he said.

Fedor, who has already turned down more than $2 million in cash for his plot, says saving scenes like this is priceless.

“We want to save the best of what we have that has been passed down from generation to generation,” he said.

The question on the Nov. 8 ballot will only affect Carbon County voters.

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