Working with the Media: A Guide for Volunteer Organizations and Commissions

Most people recognize open space as places left undeveloped, or mostly free of structures, such as Walnut Creek and Sunset Parks. Some people recognize the importance of public access. People often talk about fishing, walking, hiking, biking, water and air quality, beauty, quality of life, solitude, peace, and a connection with nature as benefits provided by open space. They rarely mention the economic and health benefits that open space provides. These well-recognized benefits are often ignored in discussions of open space.

The ability of open space to raise property values and at-tract people and progressive businesses is well documented. Planned open space systems, such as Cleveland Metro parks, are used as major marketing tools by business and real estate interests. Many studies have shown that open space helps people exercise, relax, reduce stress, stay healthy, and recover more quickly from illness.

Many people believe that land-use planning is not working to conserve open space in growing areas of Pennsylvania. Municipal autonomy in planning and zoning and a lack of cooperation among municipalities are often identified as problems with both land-use planning and open space conservation.

A common question is, “Why don’t Pennsylvania municipalities work more closely on open space and other land use issues?” Things that happened in the past, historical friction, conflicts, grudges, feuds, personality conflicts, and the traditional autonomy of Pennsylvania municipalities are common answers. Regardless, high-quality natural environments and high-quality human recreation experiences require large-scale and connected open space. To obtain this, large-scale planning and funding is required. This type of scale happens only with cooperation among municipalities, businesses, and others.

It seems that there have been many open space efforts in this area, all done separately. An overall strategy among municipalities that would plan for, create, and maintain a connect-ed and shared system of open space that would benefit and be enjoyed by many of us, regardless of the municipality we live in, is lacking. As one concerned person said, “We can’t be members of such a flat society here. Once I walk past a municipal boundary, I don’t fall of the edge of the world.”

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