Our Work

Smart Growth in Action: Fundamental Prinicples

Principle 5: Provide the public with access to formal and informal public spaces, including parks, playgrounds, public greens, water bodies, forests and mountains.

Essential to creating healthy communities is the incorporation of open and public spaces. In dense neighborhoods, area parks, community gardens and recreational areas connect people to the natural world and to their neighbors. In rural areas, the working landscape and natural areas provide economic stability for communities dependent on tourism and agriculture as well as environmental protection for air, water and wildlife habitat.

The benefits of providing open space, particularly natural open space, are vast and include the filtration of pollution, protection of biodiversity, existence of wetlands to provide flood control, and absorption of carbon dioxide through our forests. The closer we are to the natural world, the better we understand that how we care for the land impacts our health and psychological well being.

Community investment can occur in a variety of ways. For example, a town could set aside public spaces for people to gather. These parks, recreational areas and town greens promote civic engagement, physical health and emotional well being. The existence of open space increases property values and attracts business, as quality of life has been considered an important factor for companies to relocate.

Thoughtful, planned developments incorporate open, public spaces for all of these reasons. There are many planning tools and resources available for communities and individuals to increase open space. Design charettes, tree ordinances, resource conservation and overlay districts can be used to incorporate open and public spaces in towns and rural areas. Community participation is the most effective way to ensure that open space is created and maintained. There are many ways to become involved, whether it’s attending planning meetings, taking advantage of public comment periods, working with your conservation commission, writing a letter in your local paper or meeting in a park with community members to discuss a proposed development.

For more information about the planning tools and resources mentioned above, visit our Community Planning Toolbox.