Willow Grove: How about... a grove?

As the Inquirer reports today, the final shutdown of the Willow Grove Air Station later this year will free up 892 acres just north of Philly for a purpose as yet undecided.

Many different constituencies are trying to get out in front of the issue and position their pet projects as front-runners. Here's the key section from today's story:

What the repurposed land could look like (artist's conception)

The Horsham Land Reuse Authority - a nine-member board made up mainly of local political and business leaders - is already fielding proposals from local governments, private developers, and nonprofit groups, ideas that will be culled to an officially endorsed redevelopment plan.

Horsham's residents have spent nearly four decades accommodating the base smack in the middle of their suburb, learning to live with noisy airplane engines and the less than pastoral landmarks of chain-link fences and drab hangars.

But now, the question of what will take its place has become a source of anxiety for some locals.

While many locals are looking at the land as a potential source of tax revenue for Horsham, others are adamant that having got rid of the noisy overhead jets, they don't want to clog the community with more high-traffic business solutions. As Jeremy Roebuck put it,"Horsham's citizens have a far better idea of what they don't want to see on the former base than what they do. No civilian airports, no mega-shopping center, no industrial factories, and nothing that would add significant traffic to the already congested Horsham Road or Route 611, proclaimed various residents who spoke during the two-hour meeting."

This is always the problem in community development issues, with quality of life being pitched at odds with economic necessities. Still for any Earth to Philly readers that are Horsham residents, please consider supporting either conversion of the available space to a park or even allowing the land to revert, at least temporarily, to real, honest-to-god green space. It's not clear how toxic the soil there might currently be but some landscaping might even be done to include, and I know this might sound crazy, but a willow grove.

While there would likely be little to no economic benefit from this latter option, it can be seen as an investment in a future where Horsham - and all of us who live nearby - will have access to a significant tract of land that could eventually be farmed or otherwise turned to community profit - and in a way that will be close to impossible if a shopping mall is put there.

Earth to Philly will keep up with how this issue gets decided. Is sustainability a truly feasible goal in these situations? We would especially be interested to hear those of you from Horsham weigh in.