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Who will rescue us from urban sprawl?

Sylvanian: Sierra Club Pennsylvania Newsletter
Summer 1996

Book Review: Save Our Land, Save Our Towns
By Thomas Hylton

By Marilyn Skolnick

Just when all "us growth-management" types were beginning to lose hope, along comes a hero on a white horse, by the name of Thomas Hylton, a 1990 Pulitzer Prize winner, who has written another winner entitled Save Our Land Save Our Towns: A Plan For Pennsylvania.

Those of you who have struggled with land use and growth management issues have decried the lack of a plan for Pennsylvania. While there are some issues that will need more detail, here is a book that is both informative and beautiful, thanks to the spectacular photography of Blair Seitz. This book could grace any coffee table with pride.

It is a small book – only 126 pages – but it full of food for thought. There are seven chapters, covering topics such as: Shaping Pennsylvania's Future; Ten Rules for a Quality Community; Lessons for Pennsylvania; Framing a Plan for Pennsylvania. A final page lists all the organizations involved with the issue of growth management, in the hope that the book will energize the reader to do something about the problem of sprawl.

While Save Our Land reiterates what most land use advocates know, it does present the information in an interesting easy-to-read manner so that even a beginner can understand all the concepts. For example, Mr. Hylton details the ten rules for a quality community, for example: It must have a sense of place with clearly defined boundaries, and not overrun the countryside. There should be a human scale not a scale created by the automobile. By so doing he believes that people will have a feeling of belonging and togetherness not present when a person must use a car to get anywhere. Car use creates a feeling of alienation when it is the only means of moving about. He believes that self-contained neighborhoods can emphasize the feeling of community. The author is an advocate for transit and transit-friendly design for any development. Not surprisingly, he loves shade trees and would like to see them everywhere, even on the hated parking lots. "Trees have an enormous calming effect," he says and cites studies that support this position. Mr. Hylton stresses the need for maintenance and safety. To neglect the first is to compromise the second.

It is so easy to point out what the problems are; Hylton also provides solutions. What a refreshing change! None of his solutions will be easy to implement in Pennsylvania, but he has provided a blueprint. Now it is up to us to build on that blueprint.

One small criticism, I always like an index and Save Our Land does not have one. Because the book is small it is not a real problem to find anything, and the lack should not deter you from getting a copy.



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