KMT Principles

Some Background

The KMT’s mission is to establish a program around the markers that (1) celebrates Pennsylvania’s people and places, its heritage and its future, by restoring and re-introducing these proud symbols unique to our state; and (2) creates a network of Pennsylvania communities and organizations dedicated to positive development that is economically sound, environmentally responsible, and socially equitable.

Establishing Identity:  As we hope this website conveys, we hope to use the markers to influence both policy and perception to reflect a renewed interest in the things that make Pennsylvania special.  We see them as useful elements in tourism and community development, defining a sense of place individually for each community, but also establishing an identity of individual communities as an important part of the greater collective that is Pennsylvania.  Further, we see the markers as powerful reminders to Pennsylvanians about their own role as citizens of their community, of Pennsylvania, and the nation. Each time a traveler crosses the threshold into a Pennsylvania town, the very visible image of the keystone town marker reminds them that not only the town itself but also they, in their everyday role in it, be it as parents, taxpayers, educators, civil servants, volunteers, etc., hold a keystone place in the great arch of American life.  As powerful if subtle affirmations of the place Pennsylvanians have, do, and can hold in the world, the markers remind us of our responsibilities as custodians for the future rather than mere consumers in the present.

A Foundation to Build On: The KMT has built relationships with way marking groups who, in seeking out the markers, discover and share magical and hidden places across the Commonwealth.  We are working with educators to use the markers to engage young people both in adopting markers as a foray into volunteerism and caring for the community generally but also in considering critical questions that go to the heart of being a citizen in Pennsylvania, such as “Why are the markers keystone shaped?;” “Why is Pennsylvania the keystone state?;” and “Why was cast iron the material of choice for the historical markers and how was iron making important to Pennsylvania?”

Combating the Anti-Community: The close of the period when Pennsylvania was at the zenith of American industrial and agricultural output brought with it for many Pennsylvania communities a crisis of identity and a questioning of faith in their capacity to adapt and to prosper.  Over the past thirty years, the beauty and vibrancy of many Pennsylvania places has devolved into decayed downtowns and countryside paved over for tract housing and shopping malls.  From a planning perspective, the result was sprawl.  From a people perspective, the result was the isolation and segregation of people from each other—in essence, the rise of an “anti-community.”  The effect, by every measure we know how to take, is a higher cost of living, greater commute times, less time spent with family, less involvement with volunteer activities, a disassociation with community and civic affairs, and a greater per capita use of natural resources than any society in the history of civilization.  While change is inevitable and should be embraced, the destruction of community character, the waste of natural resources, and the loss of life quality is not acceptable.

To some extent, these changes are a national problem.  However, as offered by the DCNR report Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania, a 2003 report by the Brookings Institution, Back to Prosperity, stated Pennsylvania is undergoing “one of the nation’s most radical patterns of sprawl and abandonment.”  According toBetter Models for Development, Pennsylvania’s rural areas are growing much faster than the cities, which indicates a high degree of sprawl. Development consumes 350 acres of Pennsylvania’s open space every day. In addition, much of the new development in the Commonwealth is ill-planned and unattractive. Pennsylvania’s traffic congestion continues to worsen even in small towns and rural areas, and haphazard new development, combined with a lagging economy, is rapidly eroding the very qualities that make Pennsylvania unique.

It is no wonder that national organizations have recognized parts of Pennsylvania as “endangered.” The American Farmland Trust has ranked part of Pennsylvania—including Adams, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, and York Counties—as the nation’s second most threatened agricultural area. In 1999 the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Lancaster County as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places; in 2000, it listed the Valley Forge National Historical Park. And Scenic America named Cooks Creek Watershed in Bucks County one of its Last Chance Landscapes in 2000.

The groundbreaking work in Save Our Lands, Save Our Towns, by Pennsylvania native Thomas Hylton proposes solutions aimed at re-capturing the ethic of community once so strong in Pennsylvania.  Through cooperative, smart development principles, experts like Mr. Hylton have devised comprehensive, long- and short-term strategies to lower our cost of living, preserve our farms and forests, revive our cities, protect our environment, provide more secure, neighborly communities, and provide equal opportunities for all our children.  The Keystone Marker Trust Principles are based in part on the policies Mr. Hylton and his peers have shown to work in other areas across the nation.  The Keystone Marker Trust Principles very closely track the recommendations of the DCNR Report Better Models for Development in Pennsylvania and the Keystone Principles & Criteria for Growth, Investment & Resource Conservation.  The Keystone Principles were adopted by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Cabinet and intend to foster sustainable economic development and conservation of resources through the state’s investments in Pennsylvania’s diverse communities.

Entities that adhere to the following principles will be eligible to apply for grant funding to replace their Keystone Markers.  While it is not necessary to demonstrate capacity in all areas, the strongest applications will speak to past achievements in some areas and propose a commitment to future work in other areas.

The Keystone Marker Trust Principles

For all of Pennsylvania communities, success in the future will be about maintaining and enhancing quality of life.  Even at the local level—or, perhaps, especially at the local level—a culture that recognizes and respects all of Pennsylvania’s people and places as unique and valued within the great American tapestry is a threshold requirement for any of many kinds of positive re-investment needed by our communities and their citizens.

The Keystone Markers are symbols of our common commitment to recognize and respect Pennsylvania’s people and places and our own investment in a better future.

  1. A Commitment to Historic Preservation as Part of Responsible Planning
    Preference will be given to entities that have either:
    (a) adopted a historic preservation ordinance as authorized by the 1961 Historic District Act (Act 167) and Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (Act 67 & 68, Article 6, Section 603-8-7-G-2 and Section 604), which authorizes municipalities to use zoning for protection and preservation purposes.  Preservation ordinances must be certified by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC); or
    (b) qualified as a Certified Local Government through the PHMC.
    While preference will be given to entities meeting either or both criteria (a) or (b), consideration will also be given to entities that can demonstrate a strong commitment to historic preservation through past projects.
  2. A Commitment to COMBAT SPRAWL and RE-INVEST in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Areas
    Preference will be given to entities that have demonstrated a commitment to safeguarding the character of their communities by maintaining a clear edge between cities, towns, and countryside. This can be done by protecting agricultural land and open space while encouraging more compact building design and walkable communities. It also means encouraging infill development in our older communities, on vacant, underused or overlooked land near transit and on reclaimed former industrial sites (brownfields). New “greenfield” development should be compact, conserve land, and be integrated with existing or planned transportation, water and sewer services, and schools.  Keystone Marker communities should foster the creation of well-designed developments and walkable, bikeable neighborhoods that offer healthy lifestyle opportunities for Pennsylvania residents. Successful economic development projects benefitting people across a demographic spectrum or particularly at risk within a community is key to positive re-investment and any activities to this end should be highlighted.
    Preference will be given to entities that have taken steps to maintain and implement and expand land, air and water protection and conservation programs.  Conserve and restore environmentally sensitive lands and natural areas for ecological health, biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Promote development that respects and enhances the state’s natural lands and resources.  Preference will be given to entities that maintain and improve recreational and heritage assets and infrastructure, including parks and forests, greenways and trails, heritage parks, historic sites and resources, fishing and boating areas and game lands offering recreational and cultural opportunities to Pennsylvanians and visitors.Part of maintaining historic character includes community input in the design and placement of new construction.   Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built since the end of World War II, and much of it is cookie-cutter, off-the-shelf junk. New buildings can either complement the character of Pennsylvania communities, or they can turn the state into “Anyplace USA.” Pennsylvania communities should do more to ensure that new construction—particularly chain stores, shopping centers, and franchises— respects local character. Pennsylvania’s natural setting, historical development pattern, and architectural traditions make this a distinctive place. By identifying what makes each community unique, and what harms that uniqueness, localities can develop standards that foster distinctive, attractive communities with economic vitality and a strong sense of place.
    Preference will be given to entities that have adopted a comprehensive plan through a process of engaging with multi-municipal, county and local government entities.
    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, alone and exemplary among the various states, was founded on revolutionary principles of compassion and understanding, tolerance and peace.  The Pennsylvania Constitution declares that among the Inherent and Indefeasible Rights of Mankind is the right of all people to be born equally free and independent, to enjoy life and liberty, and to pursue happiness.  These Rights and Principles have not been afforded with equal force or effect to all persons equally throughout our history. Therefore, preference will be given to entities that have worked to build alliances between traditionally disenfranchised populations or have generally worked to connect citizens with the resources they need to live healthy, productive lives.  Education, civic engagement, and volunteerism have been modalities of outreach used by communities to build positive environments where peoples of all faiths, colors, age, economic status, national origins, gender, and sexual orientation are respected as valued, contributing members of society.