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If I had my way, Fayetteville would stop promoting itself, stop winning national awards and hide from the rest of the world. But, I don't have much of a success record in getting my way. So all I, or any of us, can do is tell local elected officials and their staff how we think things should be in our town and region and hope for the best.

One of the major quality-of-life decisions Fayetteville will finalize next year is a 10-year "Imagine Tomorrow's Parks" master plan for its city parks. And, one of the things town leaders have learned over the decades is it is wise to ask its citizens what they think then pay attention to their responses.

To that end, this past month the city parks department launched 12 show-and-tell presentations. Their purpose was to show maps with park information to people across town so these informed residents can better tell city leaders what they want, where and why. Taking the parks department survey, accessed via, is a good kick-start to thinking about what you like now and changes you may want to see. Or, it might be best to drop in to one of these open gatherings and ask questions before taking the survey.

Whichever approach you choose, the city wants to have your input, and there are only two sessions remaining in this phase of collecting public data: Thursday at the Lake Fayetteville Marina from 5 to 7 p.m., and Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon on the southeast corner vicinity of the Fayetteville Square. There will be a second phase of meetings again this summer in July-August.

The master plan time line is "to help develop a plan for a thriving park system for all ages, abilities and activities and to help set funding priorities." Public involvement in this process along its path to the Fayetteville City Council in 2019 will help determine what and how the city develops, maintains, adds to or subtracts from park acreage, among other issues. Currently we have regional, community and neighborhood parks of varying sizes and uses. The city also has horticultural beds and gardens around the square and near municipal buildings, as well as in parks, bordering parking lots and at some city entries. Locally there are also multiple public and private sports and aquatic facilities and programs, summer camps, bike and foot races, outdoor music concerts, botanical garden adventures and miles of trails.

It is unlikely that Northwest Arkansas will try to hide its appeal and thousands more new residents will continue to pour into the area. So, my personal recommendation for tomorrow's parks is for the city to acquire more and more land for the future, whether is ever used for recreational needs, since they are very costly to develop. As we see commercial and residential expansion take over more land and as urban infill fills in the few open spaces left within the city's core and edges, we will need more places to stretch and play and salvage our sanity. The most beautiful cities of the world have an abundance of green spaces and parks, and the wisest cities also have green corridors throughout their footprint for both wildlife and human connectivity.

Some think we already have more park land here than we can say grace over. This is because people generally do not think of green space as a municipal utility that absorbs storm water, that exchanges carbon dioxide for oxygen, and that provides habitat for the ecosystem we live in. Tree canopies cool our paved and roofed surroundings lowering the "heat island" effect hard-surfaced cities produce. Hot cities increase our air conditioning demands, which increase the need for power plants, which consume fossil fuels, which add carbon to the atmosphere, which makes the planet hotter. In April 2014 when the monthly atmospheric carbon count broke 400 parts per million, the rise was projected to continue upward 2 parts per million annually unless we rapidly decrease carbon production. This April, the count was 410 parts per million.

If investing in and imagining tomorrow's parks and green space networks is not seen as environmentally vital to both our ecological and economical quality of life, Northwest Arkansas will cook its golden egg laying goose. There is a point of diminishing returns of growth's effects on quality of life. We need to prepare now for what we need now and in our much warmer and crowded future.

Commentary on 05/01/2018

Print Headline: Parks and the future

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