Monday, June 4, 2012

It's Not Easy Being Green

In case you were wondering, Las Vegas doesn't have a lot of park space. The Trust for Public Land noted the lack of parks in Las Vegas' city limits in its newest ranking of urban open space, though both the City and Clark County noted the Trust's study didn't include parks in master planned communities (like Summerlin) or Clark County operated parks in nearby unincorporated areas.

Still, it's clear that there are serious challenges for Las Vegas and most of the rest of Southern Nevada in making our communities more livable. While Henderson actually has reaped some success with its open space master plan, but the rest of the valley hasn't been as successful. And especially when we add fast growing unincorporated communities into the mix, open space preservation hasn't kept up with the county's population growth.

And in case that's not bad enough, many older communities in the urban core of the valley have faced problems in recent years because they don't have enough parks nearby. Here's what many in Southern Nevada are missing out of.

Parks and open space outside of cities produce economic benefits as well. Parks attract non-resident visitors who put new dollars into local economies. Proximity to parks and open space enhances the value of residential properties and produces increased tax revenues for communities. Open space captures precipitation, reduces stormwater management costs, and by protecting underground water sources, open space can reduce the cost of drinking water up to ten-fold. Trees and shrubs reduce air pollution control costs. And of course, there is the value to human communities of protecting the habitats of wild creatures who live near us.

Nearly half of Americans get less than the recommended minimum amount of physical activity—more than one-third engage in no leisure-time physical activity at all. In the movement to improve the health and wellness of adults and children across the country, parks have a critical role to play.

Whether hosting a Little League team or a seniors’ tai chi class, parks promote physical and mental health for people of all ages. The Trust for Public Land’s research into best practices in planning, design, and programming helps communities maximize the health benefits of their park systems

I consider myself fortunate to live in a community where all of the above is not just possible, but where it regularly happens. However, one doesn't have to travel far to find other parts of Clark County where kids have to play in the streets and bike trails are nowhere to be found. Going forward, we really do need to fix this if we want a more livable community that's more attractive to people and businesses looking for better economic opportunities.

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