Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Value of Open Spaces

What are open spaces? Sometimes referred to as greenspaces, open spaces are portions of land left undeveloped. Open spaces are more than just leftover or overlooked pieces from development projects. When properly included in planning, open spaces serve a significant role in environmental maintenance. In our constantly growing corner of the map, it is vital for us to ensure they do not disappear.

This photo from the Friends of Frying Pan Park Facebook page shows the drastic changes our area has undergone, from farmland in 1936 to the extreme development and paved surfaces of this year.
Why are they so important? Open spaces serve our community aesthetically -- they’re beautiful spots where we can reflect and find peace, contemplate, and relax. In recent decades, they have also become recognized for the beneficial role they play in land use planning. They can help with stormwater management, because unlike paved surfaces, untouched soil is able to absorb and take in more water. Wildlife also retains refuge and a safe place to live when open spaces are preserved to offset habitat lost to development.

Environmental planner John Randolph states that including open spaces in planning is “a useful mechanism to integrate a broad range of ... objectives, including parks and recreation, farmland preservation, natural hazard mitigation, floodplain management, stream restoration, urban forestry, habitat conservation, and wetland protection” (from Environmental Land Use Planning and Management). Just north of us, Maryland has an innovative, integrative approach called the GreenPrint program that identifies important and unprotected land; maps out corridors and connections among them; and works to acquire preserve these lands.

What can we do to prevent open spaces from disappearing? Participate in local town and county meetings to make sure our leaders know how much we value the important role open spaces contribute to our community. Restonites may be particularly interested in becoming involved with community organizations to Save Baron Cameron Park and Rescue Reston.

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