Saturday, August 7, 2010

Seattle’s Parks and Open Space Advocate’s Vision for a Sustainable Future to SeattlePOSA
show details 8:35 PM (39 minutes ago)

In honor of tomorrow's summit of tree advocates, I am re-printing our work-in-progress:
Seattle’s Parks and Open Space Advocate’s Vision for a Sustainable Future
SUSTAINABLE NEIGHBORHOODS --  The goal for neighborhoods should be stand-alone sustainability  --  walk or ride convenient transit to jobs and shopping,  pleasant pedestrian qualities, trees and other greenery, easy access to natural environment and to outdoor recreation,  energy-saving facilities, stormwater absorption and retention using natural methods, and friendly-neighborhood design, and a clean, toxic-free environment
TREES  --  A future of a warmer, drier climate with more extreme storms is all the more reason -- beyond the aesthetics, cooling shade, water absorption, oxygen-generating, dust collection and processing, habitat, carbon sequestration, human scale and spiritual values provided by trees -- for increasing our urban forest. 
The responsibility for providing trees should fall on all property owners.  To rely on streets and parks to supply trees is simply inadequate.  All property owners should have trees, at least medium sized, on their property or pay into a fund to plant and maintain trees nearby.
A serious urban forestry strategy, centralized tree management, a continually updated tree inventory covering both public and private property, and an urban forestry commission to oversee the process are necessary steps.  Existing mature trees are a special treasure to be protected to the maximum.

CLEAN ENVIRONMENT/ HEALTHY LIVING -- Continually reduce and eventually eliminate manmade toxic materials from publicly assessable open space,  continually improve energy-efficiency, avoid projects that significantly contribute to global warming, reduce heat islands, protect waterways from pollution and siltation, strategically provide habitat for native wildlife, and otherwise continually improve conditions relating to human and environmental health.
SHORE, STREAMSIDES, AND WETLANDS -- Multiple means should be applied to naturalize Seattle’s wealth of shores, streamsides and wetlands.  The unique shore-to-uplands relationship for people, wildlfe, and wetlands should be nourished.  Wherever possible create natural wildlife corridors to connect water to woods.  Build on no wetlands;  preserve and maintain them in healthy natural condition.
WELCOMING, NEIGHBORHOOD-FRIENDLY PUBLIC OPEN SPACES --  Our parks and other public open spaces should be welcoming to all.  Parks and open spaces in the urban environment fill an essential role of reduction of stres.  They should be a place to relax our eyes and senses from the urban glare and din, to feel refreshed and to meet our neighbors.  And they should add, not subtract from the grace of the surrounding neighborhoods.   Where appropriate, they should be a place for celebrating families and neighborhoods.   Parks should treat all visitors equally and serve the city residents guided by principles of universality of use, social equity, and enjoyment.

FREE PUBLIC PARKS -- Use of public lands should be free.  Fees or charges should only be related to the cost of services or products provided when a park facility or part of it is reserved for exclusive use.  Nothing should be imposed that prevents a potential park user from access to public land and facilities, except for access to areas that require security, like most administrative and maintenance spaces, or access that interferes with reserved recreational use.

CHILDREN IN NATURE, SPONTANEOUS RECREATION --  A healthy future includes providing healthful activities for children, from the youngest ages, that bring them (and us) in a better relation to nature and by holding open to myriad forms of fun.

INTEGRITY OF OPEN SPACES -- Much of the value of public parks lies in the contrast of a green environment with the busy activity of the built environment.  Dedicated public open space should be designed primarily for the enjoyment of pedestrians and should be kept free of facilities or activities that are unrelated to the recreational, cultural, historic, and landscape qualities of the space.  A key instance is the need to permanently remove the SR 520 ramps (a major regional transportation facility) from Washington Park Arboretum.
PEDESTRIAN USE -- Increasingly, pedestrians should be given primary or at least equal status in public open space.   Transportation devices like woonerfs, in which motorized vehicles and pedestrians share space and other traffic calming features should become the norm in parks and quiet residential streets.

ACCOMMODATION --  Our parks, street scapes, and other open areas should be managed and improved to address the needs of the urban public.  Accommodation means anticipating the needs of the user-public -- wide enough paths, benches, picnic tables, comfort stations, and trash containers are only a few of the traditional forms of accommodation in parks.  Maintain the active sections of parks in a way that encourages the greatest use.  An exception from maximum use is the sensitive environment places.  Natural habitat areas should be treated in a way that assures protection from misuse or overuse.  
Another form of accommodation is meeting the expectations of enjoyment of green, quiet spaces when visiting a park;  new park uses that may conflict with this expectation must be carefully considered and addressed if possible by converting existing facilities or by consolidation in areas already the center of recreational programs.  Green, quiet areas, next to residential areas, are essential antidotes to the built, hard surface places that predominate the urban environment.  
A periodic survey of the populace should probe and identify how open space is used and how needs for recreation and open space are met or not met.  This survey would guide management and maintenance practices and the planning of new developments.
AFFORDABILITY/SUSTAINABILITY OF THE PUBLIC’S TREASURES -- All public facilities should be maintained at a sustainable level, and major upgrades or restorations should have budget priority (except for projects vested by the Parks Levy) over the development of new facilities, until the backlog (approximately $ 800 million in estimated costs) is reduced to a managable level.  New facilities should be economical to maintain and easy on the environment.

John Barber

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