Open spa­ces rock

Plan­ning ef­fort helps pre­serve re­gion’s na­ture

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

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.

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