Coastal communities need guidance and supportive partnerships to become more resilient to coastal hazards and climate change impacts. This need is most intense in smaller, financially challenged communities such as Chester, the oldest city in Pennsylvania. Chester’s population and economy began to decline after losing primary industries in the 1960s, and, in 1995, the city was officially declared financially distressed. However, recent revitalization efforts have repurposed portions of the abandoned industrial riverfront, providing both recreational and office space for new local endeavors.
To complement the revitalization, Pennsylvania Sea Grant and other partners used the Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk framework to integrate resilience to hazards and climate change into community planning efforts. The NOAA Office for Coastal Management’s Roadmap assessment approach helps communities characterize exposure to current and future threats and incorporate relevant data and information into existing planning and decision-making efforts. During an initial Roadmap workshop hosted by Pennsylvania Sea Grant in 2010, stakeholders from several Delaware County riverfront communities discussed vulnerabilities and challenges commonly faced by tidal riverfront communities. Following the workshop, Pennsylvania Sea Grant was awarded an additional Coastal Community Climate Adaptation Initiative (CCCAI) grant to pursue recommendations identified at the workshop. The City of Chester was selected as the focus of the two-year project because it is a community with significant need that is well-positioned to integrate climate adaptation and hazard resilience strategies into parallel community economic redevelopment and comprehensive planning efforts—assuring a good return on the investment.
As a result of the Roadmap initiative, the citizens and elected officials of the City of Chester are more aware of existing vulnerabilities and risks, and the city's comprehensive plan, Vision 2020, now contains climate adaptation goals. Pennsylvania Sea Grant has also established a lasting partnership with local, regional, state, and federal groups that can help continue to build coastal Pennsylvania’s hazards resilience.