Friday, October 30, 2009

The connection between Open Space and Biking and Walking

I was reading BikePortland earlier this week and came across an article that talked about the connection between preserving farmland from development and high quality recreational road cycling. While it is something that I've thought about before, I found it interesting that someone else had made the connection to farmland and open-space preservation and maintaining quality cycling particularly right at this moment in time.

A view from Sunrise Mountain Road in Stokes State Forest during an overnight bike tour.

As part of next week's elections, Ballot Question One will ask New Jerseyans if the State should bond 400 million dollars to continue funding the New Jersey Green Acres and Farmland Preservation programs. Previous voter approved bond funds managed by Green Acres and Farmland Preservation have been used to assist in the preservation of the 1.2 million acres of parkland and 180,000 acres of farmland in New Jersey. As cycling and pedestrian advocates you might be asking, "How does preserved land help our cause?" Well, let me suggest a number of ways that it does.

#1 - Preserving land and protecting it from development prevents sprawl in New Jersey's scenic areas. Some of my favorite places to take a recreation road ride are full of beautiful farms and scenic vistas. In these areas much of the land that I pass by is protected from development. Not only does this keep the scenery beautiful but since population densities are kept low, the roads that pass through these areas remain quiet with very low traffic volumes, perfect for cycling. And again it can't be said enough, these areas are just plain beautiful and a real pleasure to cycle through.

Enjoying the view on quiet Rocktown Road in Hunterdon County. The farm in the foreground
and much of the forest on Sourland Mountain in the distance are protected from development.

#2 - Many preserved lands become places to hike and mountain bike. (Not much else to say here.)

Coming down the deserted hairpin on Middle Valley Road in Long Valley, Washington
Township in Morris County (didn't have a real mountain biking or hiking photo available).

#3 - Removing the development potential from land far from municipal services prevents car dependent development where nothing can reasonably be reached by foot or bicycle like schools or parks. Also, taking these lands out of "circulation" can, in theory, help focus development back into city and town centers where amenities already exist and are easily accessible by non-motorized means.

Vacant lots and underutilized buildings wait for more productive uses
less than 5 minutes walk from Trenton's new, world-class train station.

#4 - Parkland that is preserved today can be used as vital links in building future transportation trails. Using pre-existing parks are often a way that trail planners can get a trail through an urban or otherwise densely developed area. This is how much of the East-Coast Greenway is being routed through Northeastern New Jersey.

#5 - Finally while admittedly not directly in line with the thesis of this article, in New Jersey, Green Acres moneys are often directly used to improve the pedestrian environment in pre-existing towns, like with the Morristown Green and Bay View Park in Perth Amboy. It has been long understood that urban open-spaces, as long as they are properly maintained, greatly improve the quality of life of pedestrian oriented cities and towns.

While this all may sound like a promotion to support the bond initiative next week, there is no intent either way. I just want people to be aware of the interplay between preserved lands and the quality of walking and biking, particularly with the bond coming up for a vote next week. Rejection of the bond initiative may actually be a good thing. If the bond is rejected, due to the political popularity of the Green Acres and Farmland Preservation programs, legislators may finally be forced to find a different funding source for land preservation, preferably one that has a dedicated source of annual revenue.

1 comment:

ds r4 said...

Thanx for the valuable information. This was just the thing I was looking for, I run a "use bicycle campaign".... I will put the link in my article for sure.... keep posting. Will be visiting back soon.