Open spaces are not just green splotches on a land use map

posted on October 18, 2017 11:04am

The Principle and Practices of Urban Planning book states:

“Open space must be seen not just as space remaindered from development or green splotches for parks on land use maps, but as an essential element determining the character and quality of the urban environment. There are basically three functions which open space serves:

  1. It can meet positive human needs-both physically     and psychologically. The underlying justification for most open space has     been on health grounds for fresh air, sunlight, physical exercise, and     psychological release.
  2. It can enhance and protect the resource base,     i.e. the air, water, soil, plants- and, in turn, the animals.
  3. It can affect economic development decisions like     tourism, development patterns, employment, real estate values, etc. (p.     187).

The Principle and Practices of Urban Planning book was published in 1968 by the Institute for Training in Municipal Administration. The planning principles regarding open spaces hold true today. The intentional designs of open spaces are major planning components of New Urbanism, New Economy Placemaking, and the Detroit Future City 2012 Strategic Framework Plan.

The Detroit Future City Strategic Framework Plan has 12 Imperative Actions. One of the imperative actions states, “We must use our open space to improve the health of all Detroit’s residents” (p.9). One strategy in the plan is to “Create a New and Diverse Open Space System for the City: Connection and Adding to Existing Open Space” (p. 125).

The plan is not only to maintain and develop open spaces, but it takes the concept of open space planning another step by recommending ways to create networks of open spaces. As frequently stated in the MSUE Citizen Planner Classes, planning does not end at a community’s boundaries. What happens in one community almost always affects what occurs in an adjacent community or an entire region. Many times natural resources such as rivers and lakes cross multiple jurisdictions. Therefore, it is necessary to create open space networks both within and outside of communities, as well as develop multi-jurisdiction plans.

The Detroit Future City Strategic Framework Plan identifies five landscape development types, and provides definitions and images of each type of landscape. The five landscape development types are:

1. Community Open Space: Landscapes for recreation, social life, and small-scale food cultivation.

  • Playground, Neighborhood Park, Sports Field, Regional Park, Cemetery (Existing), Plaza, Recreation Center, Trail/Greenway, Urban Garden, Farmers Market 

2. Ecological Landscapes: Meadows and forests that
provide habitat and other environmental benefits.

  • Nature Park, Industrial Nature Park, Rapid Reforestation, Succession Road, Roads to Rivers

3. Blue/Green Infrastructure: Landscapes that capture storm water and clean air

  • Large Lake, Smaller Retention Pond, Infiltration Park, Wales and Infiltration Medians, Roadside Pond (along wide roads), Green Industry Buffer, Carbon Forest

4. Working and Productive Landscapes: Landscapes that generate new knowledge, grow energy and food, and create new urban experiences

  • Research Landscape, Urban Farm, Aquaculture and Hydroponics, Algae-culture, Energy Field or Forest, Homestead, Campground

5. Transitional Landscape: Temporary landscapes that clean soil and enable new forms of social life and creative displays

  • Event Landscape, Remediation Fields or Forest, Artscape, Urban Meadow

These landscape development types are applicable in both urban and rural communities. It is just a matter of identifying where in a community these landscape development types might be best implemented and at what scale. A pilot project can be implemented to evaluate the feasibility of the selected landscape development type, and to determine its effectiveness.

Those in Michigan State University Extension that focus on land use provide various training programs on planning and zoning, which are available to be presented in your county. Contact your local land use educator for more information.

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