The Lancaster Group of the Sierra Club is the Pennsylvania State Chapter's newest Group, authorized by the national Sierra Club in 2008. Prior to that time, members of the Sierra Club from Lancaster County were affiliated with the Chapter's Governor Pinchot Group (GVP), which covered Lancaster County and most of south-central Pennsylvania.
Sierra Club's governance structure is as follows (from top down): The National Organization; State Chapters; and Groups within those chapters, defined by geographic boundaries. The Lancaster Group is one of ten in Pennsylvania and the only one whose area of jurisdiction lies totally within one county. Sierra Club Groups, which operate at the grassroots level, are run solely by volunteers.
Efforts to establish an independent Lancaster Group began in 2005 when the core membership of GVP's Lancaster Committee realized there were numerous environmental opportunities and challenges in Lancaster County that required the focus of its own Group. Further, with a population fast approaching a half million and a Sierra Club membership inching toward 1,000, the county was prime territory to support a Group of its own. Today, Sierra Club members who reside in Lancaster County are automatically members of the Lancaster Group.
The mission of the Sierra Club is "To Enjoy, Explore and Protect the Planet." Toward that end, the Lancaster Group is committed to supporting all issues and programs related to improving and enhancing the environment, through educational outreach and other activities.
The Group's activities have centered recently on water quality: in area municipal systems, streams, the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay. Experts have been brought in to educate members and the public as to the various issues and concerns, not the least of which is possible Marcellus Shale runoff contamination of the lower Susquehanna River. And, information sessions for kids on water conservation are ongoing in local libraries.
The Group also is busy conducting other environmentally related activities and events. Included among these are cleanups of various Lancaster County Parks, educational hikes for children and adults, book discussions, bike rides, and the very successful Polar Bear 5K Trail Run/Hike held in mid-January that has attracted hundreds of participants from PA and nearby states.