Open Space Questioned As Anti-Sprawl Tool
By John Nagy, Staff Writer
Your local playground, county park, preserved farm, state forest or national monument came at a high price and may serve an important purpose, but there's scant hard evidence to prove that it's stopping sprawl as advertised, according to a new report from the Brookings Institution.
" Over the last decade, open space protection efforts have increased dramatically throughout the nation. Yet they are generally not well coordinated with complementary policies designed to shape urban and metropolitan growth patterns," the report's authors conclude.
The report includes a state-by-state review of major land protection efforts and calls for new research focusing on the impact open space programs have upon urban growth. Thirty-two states have established or significantly broadened land preservation programs since 1991, the report found.
Voters in state and local elections have set aside more than $20 billion to protect land thought threatened by the encroachment of residential and commercial development since 1998 alone, according to conservation groups. That includes the $2.6 billion for parks and open space California voters approved in November 2001 despite fears that terrorism and the economic downturn would dampen interest in open space.
While the report does not allege misuse of the money, it points to the various uses of public land and the differing goals of governments and land trusts non-profit groups that coordinate the purchases of treasured land or the right to develop it as factors clouding knowledge about open space as a tool for managing growth.