Conserving our open space and natural areas

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Open Space and Natural Area Enhancement Plan: I supported the 2016 ballot item to use ½ cent for the improvement of the City’s parks and nature areas (Red Rocks, Wheeler, and Underwood) over a period of ten years. There are six more years to go, and we are implementing management plans for Red Rocks and Wheeler. We have a vision and initial strategies for Underwood that still need our attention. So far, work has focused on removing invasive species from the parks and repairing trails. Each year, the cent for open space conservation for active (playing fields) and passive recreation (parks and natural areas) accrues reserve funds of roughly $300,000 per year. The ½ cent Open Space and Natural Area Enhancement Plan has directed between $130,000-150,000 per year toward conservation management and the upkeep of our natural areas, a much needed step.

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The heavy usage of S.B.’s athletic fields: The Recreation and Parks Department staff put together a needs list, which was presented to the Council in 2015. They are now finalizing a plan for a new recreation center, including basketball courts, a turf field, walking/running paths, movement center, and more! The design is available on the City’s website, and the Council intends to pursue these plans in the coming year, following Town Meeting Day.

The COMPREHENSIVE PLAN:

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Recommendation that all residents be within 1/4 mile of and have easy, safe access to a park: I am a huge proponent of pocket parks and green space, neighborhood gardens, playgrounds and nature areas for passive recreation.

Conservation of natural resources throughout the city: The Interim Zoning Open Space Committee is currently finalizing its report, which will be released by the end of January. The committee has identified for possible conservation twenty parcels throughout the city which will be reviewed by the Council along with other studies (on Transfer of Development Rights, Planned Urban Developments, and an economic environmental analysis) in order to determine how city planners can meet the goals as outlined in South Burlington’s Comprehensive Plan.

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Wheeler Park Conservation: I support having Wheeler Park conserved through a third party in perpetuity, and this remains to be realized.

Residential and commercial growth: Both the Director of Public Works and the past Fire Chief have both stated publicly that we are nearing a point in development that would stretch City services too thin, thus requiring an increase in staffing levels and, therefore, a significant tax increase. It is important for Councilors to keep focused on maintaining this delicate balance. I advocate a residential/commercial/open space balance not only for quality of life reasons but also for economic (i.e., tax base) reasons.