Open spaces rock
Planning effort helps preserve region’s nature
How do you set a goal then make sure it becomes reality? There are all kinds cliches and comments that apply.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” “You’ve got to think ahead if you don’t want to fall behind.”
“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”
In Northwest Arkansas, there’s a lot of planning going on, much of it about a new business here or a new residential development there. But how many people plan for nature? Doesn’t nature just happen?
It does, but it can disappear fast. More than two years ago, Northwest Arkansas planners with funding from the Walton Family Foundation set out to draft a plan, with public input, identifying open and natural areas viewed as important to local residents. Local government leaders got behind the plan, which has helped galvanize efforts to preserve natural areas considered essential to keeping Northwest Arkansas a place that respects nature.
Since the development of the Open Space Plan, cities and nonprofit groups have bought or been given at least 1,000 acres to protect from development, according to the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission, which oversees the plan.
“Shaping the future of our region, it’s kind of like now or never,” said Terri Lane, director of the Northwest Arkansas Land Trust. It’s a statement that will always be spot on.
What’s great about this Open Space Plan is it’s not some bureaucratic, big-government attack on property rights. Rather, it’s an effort to find common ground, a unified realization that preserved land benefits everyone, even those who want to develop other lands. Nobody argues development should stop, but the plan recognizes and gives form to the notion that natural space is vital to the long-term health of the region. Having a plan makes it easier for preservation advocates to match their resources to local residents’ vision for the future.
That future looks better because of the work that went into and continues with the Open Space Plan.