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HARRISBURG, PA-Gov. Ed Rendell has awarded a total of $41.4 million from two separate programs to protect land and conserve open space throughout the commonwealth. In addition, he has provided $9 million in low-cost loans to fund development projects in eight counties.

The Growing Greener II fund is investing $39.4 million in 406 projects devoted to land protection, conservation and recreation initiatives. The grants cover the conservation of 4,129 acres of open space and 224 projects for the development or rehabilitation of recreation, park or conservations areas and facilities.

More than $3 million is devoted to projects in the 12 counties that make up the Pennsylvania Wilds, where it will support park and trail infrastructure. Another $1 million will be split evenly between two Pittsburgh projects: improved river access at Convention Center Riverfront Park and the addition of a stage and water feature at South Shore Riverfront Park.

Other beneficiaries include the rehabbing of environmental centers; conservation easements along creeks, waterways and trails, and the acquisition of abandoned land and its conversion into pedestrian and bike trails. Growing Greener II is a $625-million bond issue that was approved by voters.

In a separate initiative, the state has invested $2 million from the Keystone Fund to help the Lancaster County Conservancy acquire 3,500 acres of open space in Lancaster and York counties from PPL Corp. The seller intends to donate the money to the new owners in the form of a sustainable endowment fund that will be used to manage and improve public access to the land, which is located along the Lower Susquehanna River. In a statement, Rendell thanked PPL “for its commitment to ensuring not only that this company land is permanently protected, but also that resources are in place to enhance it for public enjoyment.”

The $9 million in economic development loans are from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, which provides capital for land and building acquisition or construction and renovation. The majority of recipients in this round of funding are small manufacturing firms.

The Bucks County Economic Development Corp. received nearly $2.3 million to renovate the former Rohm & Haas facility in Bristol and convert it into lab space for companies in the fields of advanced technology and life sciences. In another example, an Armstrong County electronic services provider obtained a loan for half of the $1.6-million cost of constructing a 13,810-sf expansion facility. A Berks County manufacturer obtained a loan covering half of its $1.3-million cost of acquiring and renovating a 58,220-sf building in Reading. Rendell says the overall PIDA investment will create and retain 222 jobs and generate more than $7.6 million in private commitments.

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