Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Indexing Public Parkland

I hope officials did more than utter “cool” when a friend recently circulated a new benchmark analysis of city parkland by The Trust for Public Land. I know public servants such as Stacy Poston in special projects in General Services for Durham, one of the cities benchmarked, will be all over it.

The Trust was founded the same year that North Carolinians by a margin of of 7 to 1 voted to embed the policy to conserve and  protect “forests, wetlands, estuaries, beaches, historical sites, openlands, and places of beauty” into article XIV of the state constitution.

Judging by the overall maintenance of its parkland, Durham, North Carolina where I live needs to take that responsibility a lot more seriously especially when it comes to maintenance and upkeep.

The City of Durham appears to have only half the park acres as a percentage of overall land area that is the average for the 100 largest cities in the United States. Of North Carolina's urban areas all but Greensboro is below average and all rank in the lowest category.  Raleigh only appears to be higher because it is propped up by inclusion of a huge state Park that virtually doubles the parkland within its city limits.

There are several other benchmarks in the study including population density where Durham also ranks significantly below the median for acres of parkland per 1,000 residents and half that of its peer group.   The study provides the basis upon which Durham can pull an even tighter state and national analysis making sure not to include state parkland to make the benchmarks more “apples and apples.”

Time is ticking for Durham because while it may be the fifth largest city in the state it is shoehorned into the 17th smallest county in terms of land area and a third has been wisely set aside in watershed and/or very low density development.  Some see that as an excuse, but I think it should be motivation.

But before my adopted hometown considers adding to public parkland and open space I believe it needs to be held more accountable for funding and greatly improving the maintenance and upkeep of what it already has judging from the very popular park down the hill from where I live.

Unfortunately, it seems to be the nature of far too many people to fuss about something new while letting what they already have fall into neglect.  Maybe it feeds the need for a dopamine rush but I'm afraid it is more likely a form of community attention deficit.

If time was not so critical when it comes to protecting openlands and historical sites, I wonder if it might be a good idea to require cities and counties, and for that matter states, to index any ability to pursue new things to their track records for maintenance and upkeep of what they already have.

After all that's just part of conservation and preservation.

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