Community engagement workshops planned for 2020

(ERIE, PA) – Pennsylvania’s Great Lakes coastal communities will benefit from $38,000 in funding to address extreme weather and climate change. The effort, “The New Normal–Breaking down social barriers to build up coastal resilience in a Great Lakes coastal community,” will address immediate and long-term impacts of weather extremes and climate change to businesses, residents, the economy, and the environment in Erie County, PA.

Pennsylvania Sea Grant and the Community Resilience Action Network of Erie (CRANE) are leading the effort, with funding through the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments (GLISA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Erie Insurance Company. The effort will include piloting a vulnerability assessment tool, called the Coastal Resilience Index (CRI), hosting a series of community and decision-maker workshops that project climate scenarios, and identifying and prioritizing vulnerabilities and action strategies to address those vulnerabilities.

The project area of Erie County hosts an abundance of valuable economic and natural resources and opportunities, including 76 miles of Lake Erie shoreline, Presque Isle State Park, the City of Erie, and eight other coastal municipalities.

Unfortunately, extremes in weather, temperature and climate have impacted the region. Unprecedented snow and rain events, flooding, high lake levels, temperature fluctuations, tornados, and damaging high winds are all examples of the varying impacts related to climate change. Yet, despite the increase in frequency and intensity of these events, past focus groups with decision-makers and residents have shown a general lack of knowledge about the tools, resources, and science available to help the region better prepare.

Damage and losses for businesses, farmers, and residents have long-lasting impacts to the local and regional economy, crop viability, infrastructure, and individual homes. Presque Isle State Park, one of Erie’s most notable assets, attracts over 4 million visitors each year and is considered vital resting site for migratory birds. It too is threatened by climate and weather extremes and variabilities.

“The effort will launch the process of resiliency planning for Erie County,” said Sara Stahlman, extension leader for Pennsylvania Sea Grant and chair of CRANE. “The results will help safeguard our most vulnerable communities, farmers, businesses, and Presque Isle State Park, from the threats of extreme weather and climate.”

The work will begin in 2020, with research into past and predicted weather events, and climate trends. Insights and responses from community engagement workshops will help to create a realistic assessment of the region’s ability to prepare for and respond to extremes. 

“The research and community engagement efforts are the first steps to identifying the vulnerable and valuable assets that are at greatest risk,” said Leann Sestak, interim executive director for Environment Erie. “We’ll be collecting public input, opinions, and knowledge of available resources in order to make a baseline assessment of the community’s connection to and understanding of extreme weather and climate and how it impacts their daily lives.”

Future phases of the effort include follow-up visits with decision-makers and stakeholders to refine the list of possible action strategies and compile a best management practices document with action strategy recommendations, which will act as a roadmap to building resilience in Erie. Learn more about PA Sea Grant’s climate-based efforts ( and visit CRANE (

Composition of Project Team: Pennsylvania Sea Grant chairs a group of community members called the Community Resilience Action Network of Erie (CRANE) who are committed to developing a climate-conscious community through education, coordination, and implementation of projects that address climate adaptation and build local resilience. CRANE is made up of the Erie County Department of Planning, the Regional Science Consortium, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Environment Erie, and the Green Building Alliance.

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