Catherine Harper Recognized with the 2019 Planning Advocate Award
(Nov. 13, 2019) Catherine “Kate” Harper, a practicing attorney for more than 30 years, received recognition for her passionate ongoing efforts to protect the natural world and promote healthy communities.
The Montgomery County Planning Commission presented Harper with the 2019 Planning Advocate Award during a recent ceremony. The award recognizes individuals or organizations that have “made significant and sustained contributions to advancing or promoting planning in Montgomery County.” A tireless advocate for the planning, preservation, and stewardship of Montgomery County’s valuable green spaces, Harper was a natural fit for the award. Prior to her election as a State Representative, where she served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly from 2000 through 2018, Harper played an active role in county and local government. She maintains a general practice, with a focus on land use, particularly municipal, conservation and zoning law. She also represents land trusts, landowners and conservancies in preservation projects and in drafting and enforcing conservation easements.
Kate is experienced in the various facets of municipal law and currently serves a solicitor to the Milford Zoning Hearing Board, the Springfield Montgomery County Zoning Hearing Board and Hatfield Borough. She has served as solicitor for Upper Moreland Township, Plumstead Township, Upper Salford, and Perkasie Borough. She was appointed to the Lower Gwynedd Township Planning Commission in 1986 and later served as a Supervisor for 13 years. She served as Vice Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Commission from 1994 to 2000. She was member of Montgomery County’s first Open Space Task Force in 1993, which successfully advocated for implementation of the initial $100 million Montgomery County Open Space Program. In 2003, after working with the Montgomery County Lands Trust and its partners to pass the $150 million Montgomery County Open Space Referendum, she led the Montgomery County Green Fields Green Towns Task Force in designing and implementing a visionary plan to direct these funds to preserve farmland, buy open space, create new parks and trails, re-green towns and boroughs, and revitalize urban parks in the county. Her commitment to the environment was evident in the efforts to save Penllyn Woods in Lower Gwynedd in the early 1990s. The land is now a protected 77-acre parcel containing native forests and wetlands along the Wissahickon Creek.
In addition, Harper was the prime architect of the Growing Greener II initiative, a voter-approved plan to invest $625 million over seven years to clean rivers and streams, protect natural areas, open spaces and working farms and shore up key programs to improve quality of life. The effort was the largest single investment of state funds in Pennsylvania’s history to address the state’s critical environmental concerns of the 21st century. She helped protect more than 3,000 acres of land through conservation easements while serving on the Montgomery County Lands Trust board from 1999 through 2012.
Among her numerous volunteer roles, Harper has served as a Board of Director for the Wissahickon Valley Watershed Association since 2018; and as co-chair of the Korean War Memorial American Korean Alliance Peace Park Committee since 2013.