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Etna EcoDistrict Plan Wins Pennsylvania Planning Award from APA

October 19, 2020

The Borough of Etna, Pennsylvania continues to attract recognition for its community driven and innovative EcoDistrict Plan. On October 20, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-PA) honored the planning team and community with an award during their annual conference. The Etna EcoDistrict Plan is one of two award recipients for a plan.


evolveEA design for Etna EcoDistrict Plan: Solar Grab-n-Go Concept


One year ago, as part of their education and planning process, Etna made headlines when it became the first community in the world to become a Certified EcoDistrict. The process began when the Etna EcoDistrict engaged evolveEA in 2018 to lead a year-long Education Series featuring community dinners, speakers, activities, and education centered around six core quality of life areas: water, mobility, air, energy, food, and social equity. Through the Education Series community members developed a shared understanding, voiced priority concerns, and crafted vision statements for the six quality of life areas. 

The Education Series was followed by a year of community planning where evolveEA, the Etna Community Organization, and the Borough of Etna engaged residents to co-create an action plan of policies, programs, and catalytic projects that aim to achieve Etna’s EcoDistrict goals and vision statements. Empowered volunteers embraced the responsibility of envisioning Etna’s future and used the planning process to continue building capacity for implementing their vision. The results of this process are the foundation of the award-winning Etna EcoDistrict Plan, which was published in December 2019.

Community engagement was not just a one time event. The Borough and Etna Community Organization convened their neighbors every month to learn, envision, and create a shared future and in the process, made Etna more resilient.
— Christine Mondor, Principal, evolveEA


The Etna EcoDistrict Plan now serves as a 10-year roadmap for the Etna community. It includes project- and program-based action plans for each quality of life focus area, place-based district improvements to show potential throughout the community, and indicators to measure progress. The Etna Community Organization operates to steward implementation of the Etna EcoDistrict Plan in close collaboration with the Borough of Etna, residents, and partner organizations. What started as a grassroots, volunteer community group, the Etna Community Organization grew throughout the Etna EcoDistrict process into a formal 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with a hired Executive Director, adding needed capacity to effectively steward the Plan. 

Since the Plan’s publication, ECO and the Borough of Etna have made strides to advance priority projects to improve quality of life. The capacity built throughout the Etna EcoDistrict process has also helped community leaders and volunteers address changing needs throughout Etna during the pandemic, with meal distribution programs such as Dinners for Neighbors. ECO and the Borough of Etna are at present engaged in advancing a joint project to transform a vacant lot into a public green space, addressing the Etna EcoDistrict goals of stormwater management, improving air quality, and distributing improvements equitably throughout the community.

The Etna EcoDistrict Plan was also recently awarded the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Environmental Excellence as well as a 2020 Honor Award from AIA Pittsburgh.

At the end of the day, the Etna EcoDistrict is not about one person or organization, project or place; the Etna EcoDistrict is about everyone. The next ten years and beyond will be about us collectively stepping up, taking ownership, and working collaboratively to actualize our visions for a healthy, vibrant future.
— Alexis Boytim, Director, Etna Community Organization


Funding for the Etna EcoDistrict is provided through the Triboro Ecodistrict grant by the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

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