By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY
For 21st Century Media
ELK - In years gone by, the names on Chester County township boards of supervisors often stayed the same for decades as one generation followed another in serving the community.
In Elk Township, the Durborow family was represented on the board of supervisors for more than 20 years by Harry Durborow, followed by his son Palmer “Pal” Durborow who has just concluded 12 years as Township Supervisor.
For a part of his two terms on the board, Durborow served alongside supervisor Estace Walters, whose father served alongside Durborow’s father. “We really do not do a lot different today than they did. We fell into following big footsteps,” Durborow said.
“We have no full time employees,” Durborow said, noting that the township contracts out for snow plowing and road work. “I’d be willing to bet we have the smallest budget in Chester County it’s $279,600 for 2014.”
Elk Township has a township building, but only one staff person in the office on a part time basis. The township has no road crew, and contracts out for services, or often, the supervisors take a do it yourself approach. If a tree is down in a road, reporting it to a board member will likely see someone with a chain saw and tractor handling the removal in short order.
Resident Steve Roberts is impressed by the way Durborow and the other township supervisors handle much of the work by themselves. He recalled the recently there was a report of a shelter being found near one of the trails, where a homeless person had apparently been living. Durborow went to the location the same day and finding no one there, removed the lean-to himself.
Durborow was personally involved in helping with the construction of the newest trail on the Nature Conservancy’s preserve on the serpentine barrens in the township. To honor his work, the trail was officially named and marked “Pal’s Trail”.
Open space preservation has been an important movement throughout Chester County, but Elk Township has done it a bit differently from other municipalities. Township voters approved a open space referendum by 70 percent that added .25 percent to their earned income tax to fund open space preservation and acquisition. Unlike other municipalities, Elk has not borrowed money beyond what they have brought in through the tax revenues, and has still been able to match county funds and help preserve farmland.
“We have preserved several hundred acres. This is one of the most pristine and beautiful townships you can find,” Durborow said. “That’s something people can always enjoy.”
Along with the Nature Conservancy preserve, Durborow is also proud of the creation of the Spring Lawn Trail with the assistance of a county grant. “It took us a long time to get that done,” he said.
Durborow recalls two instances during his term as supervisor where development could have changed the character of the township. In one, a development of more than 50 homes was proposed, but the site would not perk, and sewage treatment plant would have been needed just for that subdivision. The township insisted that the rules be followed to the point of going to court to make the developers comply with the ordinances, and finally the proposal was withdrawn.
In a more recent case, a 100-acre parcel looked like it was headed for subdivision, but instead, it is now set to be the new home of a mushroom plant that will occupy 20 acres, while the rest is preserved as open space.
“We really dodged a bullet with those two,” Durborow said.
Just because Elk Township wants to remain a rural community does not mean the supervisors are opposed to new development or business. What they do want is progress that is responsible and in tune with the environment. Elk township has worked with the other five municipalities in the Oxford Area School District on the recently completed Regional Comprehensive Plan that lays out guidelines for the future development of the region as well as a new storm water plan. “It will help us all,” Durborow said.
Durborow encourages others to volunteer and become involved in the local government. “It’s been an honor to serve,” he said. “It’s a great township and there are great people down here. Most of them realize how lucky we are to be in a place like this.”