Friday, October 12, 2007

Please Walk on the Grass: The Future of our Green Space

One of the lessor issues within the grand debate over "Smart Growth" for Chesterfield County is the idea and need for additional Green Space to compliment much of the new growth that we have experienced over the last twenty years.

Our new vision should be: Please Walk on the Grass

We should have enough open space built into our planning as to provide space for today's families to experience the benefits that most of us had in our youth. It bothers me that the same park that I played in in my youth here in Chesterfield is still relatively the same in both size and scope given the fact now in 2007 in serves four times as many people as in the past. You can hardly find a parking space at the Park on any given weekend or at sundown during the summer months.

I was raised to believe that green space, whether it is in the form of parks, squares or gardens was a conservative value. Today I am not so sure that this value is being fully expressed in modern day conservatism. To be sure, many of the new developments going up around the county are beginning to build these green spaces within their plans but I wonder just how "public" these spaces really will be when they are logically being introduced by developers to one; secure zoning approval and two; provided for those home buyers who can afford to purchase homes in that development.

Regardless, the push for green space is vital. Green space provides various economic gains to the community that many of us fail to recognize. Young families look for parks and playgrounds for their children when entering the home market and these very spaces contribute to accelerating home values which benefit the governments property value tax pool.

These green spaces are our open-air living room.

They contribute to our community culturally, socially, and of course personally. many of my fondest childhood memories come from playing in parks, fishing in lakes, and just merely being outside socializing with our friends from my subdivision. Access was never a question back then.

Furthermore, I think that based on the wave of townhome and condo communities going up across the county, due in large part on rising home values but laso because of the developers ability to get great economic return out of the growing demographics of the county by having additonal homes per acre on the market than say they would in traditional developments will increase the demands on green space. We have slowly taken more and more space away from "backyards" over the last decade to get more homes in on particular sites.

The "backyard" was the traditional family green space.

Space is all around us. Public space are the roadways we travel daily to and from work, the parks scattered throughout the county, the James River that touches points of the county as it flows down through the greater Richmond area, it is the space where our children play but more importantly it is the space where our children are given the ability to interact with nature for the first time.

The other issue concerning the necessity of green space is that of Physical and Mental Health. We are constantly being hit with the fact that as a people we are overweight or obese and a logical reason has to be not only our eating habits but our shrinking green space. It is in this space that our children exercise by walking, running, riding,and playing and experience the benfits of being out in the open air amongst our nature. The space provides a social community with which our children will develop their cognitive abilities as well as their social relationships with others.

We live in a time when towns and localities are competing economically with one another and any true comphrehensive planning has to incorporate public access to parks, squares, and gardens as a economic tool and not a burden to planning. I have been very impressed with many of the designs of the new developers that are being zoned, discussed and considered over the course of the last two years, but I wonder what plans do we have for the space that has been left behind as the blogger March to a Different Drummer calls our county sprawl as we move further to the west in our developing.

Chesterfield needs a true Regeneration Strategy for the areas that are getting older. Areas from Cloverleaf Mall out to Midlothian Village along the Route 60 corridor need to be looked at and additonal green space should be incorporated in any plan to revitalize that part of the county. It should not merely be business but a partnership between the business community, local government and the residents to come together to re-inspire that area. There are many opportunties in the Bermuda District to leverage its location and parks to create wonderful public settings to compliment Henricus. We should be looking to establish a public Marina funded by the County that can not only be used by residents in the traditonal sense but also for educating through County schools similar to the use near James River High School. All students should be able to benefit from the interaction with nature and our waterways through the education process and not merely the few who happen to be living in the more affluent areas. Matoaca and Clover Hill areas seem to be getting the greater concentration of large scale zonings and particular attention need to focused on insuring that enough green space is built in to the planning to compliment the greater numbers of future residents that will soon arrive.

We can do this here in Chesterfield. We can demand green space as well as keep our economic vitality moving forward as long as the community makes the committment to do so.

You can do so by making it an important factor in your descision for your vote for Board of Supervisor. I encourage you to review the visons of the candidates with regard to the future and factor in just who you believe will do the right kind of planning to move us forward. The last thing we want to see happen is have alot of our older communities be forgotten in the overall picture and continue being neglected.

I also would encourage you to talk with your neighbors, speak with members of your church, and really think about just what it could mean for your family if you had more places (free places at that) that are safe and secure for your family to interact with others and enjoy Chesterfield to its fullest.

After taking quite a few calls and emails over the past year in large part due to this blog, I have been formulating a plan for the formation in my area called the Robious Road Community Coalition (RRCC) that will seek to unite all the neighboorhoods along the corridor from Robious/Midlothian out Rt. 711 to the county line. A website is being currently under construction.Our goal for clean green space is not merely our parks. It is keeping our roadways clean. It is keeping our intersections bright and appealing. It is keeping our road medians green. It is keeping our bike routes clearly marked. It is making sure we have pet cleanup stations along our walking trails. It is so much more than just space. We will work with local PTA's to assist with their grounds committees in assisting them with their needs and we will leverage our relationships with the business community in playing a role as well.

Together a committment can be made.

The first committment you can make is to VOTE on Nov. 6th and support the future of Chesterfield.


James said...

Grassroots babay. I love it. Get it rolling and we will work toward making everyone proud of our community instead of perpetuating the era of ignoring their neighbors. Lets get back to when our communities were open spaces, the feeling of inclusion not exclusion. I am excited about this. We need to make sure that regardless of the election next month, we plan to change the environment in our favor in holding whoever it is 100% accountable. Thats what has been missing this last ten years. Fight the Good Fight Brother.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for Greenspace and all the benefits that go with it. Individuals from the county developed and privately pushed the last bond referendum to spend tax money on parks, libraries, etc., the stuff that usually falls last on the budget list and first to get the axe. The architect of that successful referendum is the leader of Dorothy Jaeckle's campaign. If you want more greenspace you can either borrow with bonds and pay through the nose with additional interest, or you can push for an increase in taxes and pay for it up front. Either way, it means using public money (your taxes) to purchase something from a private owner for common use. It also removes taxable land from the collection pot. There are no free lunches.

Jane D. said...

I agree with you that there are certainly no free lunches, but doesn't it beg the question that the county is still relying on mostly the same pasrks it did twenty years ago. I know we got an added area when the James River High and the middle school went in a few years back but are the bonds being used solely for maintaince of the parks. It seems to me we have a disportionate shoftfall of parks and green space as Henrico County, which manages to have more green space of of less tax revenue. Are they making a commitment that we are not here in Chesterfield?
As the new homes come in line and if you take the zone approved number of around 60 to 70K more potential homes over the next ten to fifteen years we certainly will not have enough fields for our recreational sports programs who now play for the most part at our parks and public school fields for practice and games. Planning must be comphrehensive and it must be done not only to satisfy the developers who may be flipping the bill but also with the feedback of residents in open forum.
I think that we have some pro-growth but smart growth sensitve candidates in Jaeckle and Dufree and or course Gecker who has created a conservation advocacy group as well. It will be interesting to see if tax payers are really paying attention to the issues or have simply bluffed with the reduction of property taxes by the current Board.

Anonymous said...

You would think that green space would be a conservative value. Why is it that these Republicans in control of the Board act as if it is merely a by product of growth.

Anonymous said...

Belvidere out in C'ville and Roseland are certainly two projects that may reflect your desire for additional green space built into projects that could be models. Not sure on Branner Stations plans though.

Anonymous said...

In terms of recreational field I understand that the Richmond Strikers Soccer Club have been seeking a rezoning in Chesterfield for the purposes of constrcuting a sports complex. Is there any truth to this? I know they had failed in attmpts to get land near Hanover to expand the complex over in Henrico off Pouncey Tract.

AlterofFreedom said...

I will attempt to reach Dan Gecker and see exactly what the situation is with any complex. Dan has been active in the community in the area of coaching I believe so I am sure this would be of interest to him as well. Thanks for the question.

AlterofFreedom said...

I have received some of the information requested in the comment section.
I received an email from Midlothian Planning Commissioner, Dan Gecker and he addressed the fact that the case concerning the soccer complex is indeed moving forward, however it was the Richmond Kickers that sought the zoning along Rt. 10 and not the Strikers.
The Richmond Kickers, our pro soccer franchise is also engaged in community soccer programs both at the recreational and select competitive levels.

**Folks I want to say that Mr. Gecker responded the very day I submitted an email requesting information on a number of issues we have a raised here. We all know what is going on right now with regard to the amount of cases and work being reviewed by the Commission and for his assistance in such a timely manner demonstrates the level of transparency and communication most of us have felt has been missing these last few years in government. I thinkw e all should take a step back and think about that when we determine what kind of government are we seeking for the future. **
J. Scott

Jim said...

Interested in the Robious Road Coalition. I think bringing all the neighborhoods in to a collective would benefit the entire community. What are your goals for this project?

J. Scott said...

Look for a post soon about the RRCC. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site
Is this possible?