Taking a
larger view
of open space

The following comes from a publication of the Northeast Ohio Regional Parks Consortium, which identifies opportunities for expanded open space conservation, river corridor protection, and trail linkages in the region.

Changes in the region

How do people view the landscape of Northeast Ohio? Increasingly, they feel that the places they knew and loved as a childcity neighborhoods, picturesque small towns and the scenic countrysideare changing. Woods and farm fields at the edges of the metropolitan area are being rapidly converted into housing developments and shopping centers. Much of this growth is being fueled by residents moving out from the regions existing urban areas.

This new development is responding to changing lifestyles and consumer demands, but it also is placing great pressure on the regions remaining open space, natural areas, and environmental quality. In the coming years, wise planning will be necessary to ensure a balance between development and the conservation of special places. It is essential that this planning take into account the needs of the entire metropolitan region.

The park districts of Northeast Ohio have worked hardand with great successto preserve and develop the green infrastructure that communities need for recreation, economic vitality, and environmental quality. But, as we enter a new century, its appropriate to ask how the region will meet the open space needs of coming generations:

  • Given the pace of development in Northeast Ohio, are current land conservation efforts sufficient?
  • How can park districts collaborate more effectively to create a network of trails, protected river corridors, and natural areas that extend across county lines?
  • As communities in the metropolitan area become more interdependent, how can park districts work with other partners to create a system of parks and open spaces that provides benefits for the entire regionand how can new partnerships for conservation help Northeast Ohio compete with other metropolitan areas that offer greater access to nature?

Park districts in Northeast Ohio believe there is a closing window of opportunity to meet the regions future open space needs.

New partnerships,
new methods for conservation

The next vision for open space in Northeast Ohio will require conservation efforts on a regional, multi-county level. And it will require a complex web of partnerships among not just park districts but many different kinds of organizationsland trusts and other nonprofit organizations, local governments, state and federal agencies, regional planning agencies, farmland preservation groups, private landowners, and businesses.

In addition to many partners, the regions open space future will likely involve many different strategies for land protection. While purchase of land for public parks will be appropriate in many cases, its sometimes more cost-effective to secure conservation easements from willing landowners. This keeps the land in private hands but assures it will never be developed, thus protecting scenic and ecological qualities. Other land protection strategies include conservation zoning to give builders the flexibility to protect the natural features of a development site, voluntary farmland protection programs to preserve the working rural landscape, and urban revitalization programs that help reduce development pressure in rural parts of the region.

One may want to think of a mosaic of protected greenspaces in Northeast Ohiolands that serve different purposes, including nature preserves protecting rare plants and animals, river corridors protecting water quality, parks and trails for public recreation, and other open spaces that preserve the rural countryside.

Making the investment

Each year the communities of Northeast Ohio invest hundreds of millions of dollars in public facilitiesroads, bridges, wastewater treatment plants, buildingsto meet important needs and prepare for the future. One of the smartest investments, though, is for open space. Open space contributes to the competitiveness of the region in many ways:

  • Recreational benefits - Provides access to nature close to home for hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, sports, horseback riding, and bird watching.
  • Environmental benefits - Protects water quality, air quality, and the diversity of plants and animals that comprise our natural heritage.
  • Economic benefits - Attracts business investment and skilled workers to the region, boosts tourism, increases property values, and reduces the need for stormwater control.
  • Community benefits - Acts as a catalyst for community revitalization, promotes exercise and healthy lifestyles, and helps create a sense of place.

To remain competitive in the new century, Northeast Ohio needs to work harder on its green infrastructure. The park districts of the region are working together to help lead this important discussion about regional priorities.



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Park districts in Northeast Ohio believe there is a closing window of opportunity to meet the regions future open space needs.


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