Posted by: chrismaser | February 11, 2010



Open space, like water, is available in a fixed amount. Unlike water, however, open space is visibly disappearing at an exponential rate. Once gone, it’s gone, unless, of course, the unthinkable happens—burgeoning rural communities and parts of cities are torn down to reclaim it. That said, the ability and commitment to maintain a variety of open spaces within and surrounding a community is critical to the sustainability and ultimately to the economic viability of the community, especially a small community in a non-urban setting.

Open space was once sacred to indigenous peoples, but today it all seems to have a price and to be coveted for that price. To bring it home, in the valley embracing Corvallis, Oregon, where I grew up as a boy in the 1940s and early 1950s, the farmers’ fields were small and friendly, surrounded by fencerows that sported shrubs and trees, including apples and pears that proffered delicious fruit, each in its season. In spring, summer, and autumn, the fencerows—those little, meandering open spaces that connect vital habitats—were alive with the songs of birds and the colors of flowers, which fed myriad native pollinators. They harbored shrews and moles, woodrats and rabbits, pheasants and deer, squirrels and red valley foxes. The air was clean, the sunshine bright and safe, and the drinking water was among the sweetest and purest in the world.

Today, however, these interlinked fencerows—the priceless avenues of Nature—are gone in the name of tillage efficiency, along with their rich, fallow strips of grasses and herbs, of shrubs and trees, which interlaced the valley in such beautiful patterns of flower and leaf with the changing seasons. Gone too are the burrowing owls from the quiet secluded fields that I once knew. Gone is the liquid melody of the meadowlark that I so often heard as a boy. Gone is the fencerow trill of the towhee. Gone are the song sparrows, Bewick’s wrens, yellow warblers, and MacGillivary’s warblers. Gone are the woodrat nests, the squirrels, and the rabbits. Although most of these species still survive in and around Corvallis, they are increasingly confined to disappearing open spaces.

While there are many compelling reasons for a community to save open space, its irreplaceability and value added to community life are vital ones because in the plurality of options saved and passed forward to all the generations of the future lies the promise of diversity and choice. Open space, as the nonnegotiable constraint around which a community chooses to develop, places the primacy of development on quality of human relationships to both people and Nature. The ability and commitment to maintain a variety of open spaces within and surrounding a community are critical to the sustainability of its quality of life (its cultural capacity, which is based on protecting the natural wealth to serve its people) and ultimately the economic viability of the community, especially a small community in a non-urban setting. A well-designed system of open-spaces determines where both urban development and the transportation corridors will be located and—above all—helps to protect local water catchments.

Water is a non-substitutable requirement of life and is finite in supply. Its availability throughout the year will determine both the quality of life in a community and consequently the value of real estate. It behooves a community, therefore, to take every possible measure to maximize and stabilize both the quality and quantity of its local supply of water by purchasing open space expressly for the purpose of storing water in the ground, where it can purify itself as it flows slowly toward the wells and aquifers it recharges.

Will we, the adult trustees of today, rise to a level of consciousness wherein we choose to bequeath the unconditional gift of a variety of healthy landscapes, beautifully highlighted with open spaces and their myriad wonders of Nature to help secure the best-possible quality of human life for all generations?

Related Posts:

• Why Be Concerned With The Building Blocks Of Sustainable Planning

• The Negotiability Of Constraints

• Feedback Loops

• Of Human Relationships And Social-Environmental Sustainability

• Grieving For Our Environmental/Social Losses

• Transportation—Efficiency Or Effectiveness, A Choice Of Focus

• Is Space A Resource?

• Open Space—A Biophysical And Cultural Necessity

• Surrounding Landscape

• Riparian Areas And Floodplains

• Restoration Of A Specific Condition Is Not Possible

Text © by Chris Maser 2010. All rights reserved.

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If you want to contact me, you can visit my website. If you wish, you can also read an article about what is important to me and/or you can listen to me give a presentation.

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