January 3, 2016
Few would dispute the benefits of greenspace.
Trees, grass and wildlife are a welcome respite from the asphalt roads and concrete buildings where too many people spend too much of their time.
A trip to the park or a hike in the woods can be therapeutic and calming. They offer a reprieve from the frantic pace of congested highways.
Simply put, we need more greenspace in our lives.
It’s good news, then, that Cobb County is reviving its greenspace preservation campaign.
In 2008, two-thirds of those voting indicated that, yes, they wanted more parks land, and approved a referendum authorizing the county to buy and preserve greenspace by issuing bonds to the tune of $40 million.
A faltering economy, however, disrupted those plans. The bonds were never issued and no additional greenspace was preserved through the program.
But Cobb County is once again filling up and at a rapid pace. Population is on the rise, and housing and jobs are working hard to keep pace. The improving economy certainly takes part of the boon credit, but a huge catalyst for the tsunami of development is the Atlanta Braves’ construction of SunTrust Park. The stadium and accompanying live-work-play community has the Cumberland area of Cobb County building at high speed.
All the more reason why we need to find those isles of greenspace and preserve them now before they, too, are bricked up and paved over.
With the recession now eight years in our past, and revenue woes diminishing, the Cobb Parks Coalition, a grassroots organization made up of local residents, renewed its call for a restart of the greenspace campaign.
Members took to social media. They began showing up at county commission meetings. They wrote letters to the editor that appeared in this newspaper.
In a forceful, but respectful, manner, the group got its message out. Other Cobb County citizens took notice and the push for greenspace gathered steam.
The Parks Coalition understood earlier economic woes and waited — patiently. Now, their message is that the time is right.
Hearing that message, County Chairman Tim Lee took steps last week to put the derailed greenspace campaign back on track. Lee wants to “establish a greenspace committee for the purpose of going out and identifying property that might be available in perpetuity as greenspace and bring those recommendations back for us, the board, to consider whether or not we want to move forward on issuing the voter-approved bonds … whenever the time is appropriate.”
It’s not a guarantee, but it is an essential first step that gets the stalled project moving again.
The committee Lee wants to form has the same task as the advisory group that identified desirable greenspace back at the time of the 2008 referendum. Some of those properties identified by the 2008 panel are no longer available. That’s why the fresh group is needed.
Chairman Lee said the county has looked at recommencing preservation of greenspace in past years, but couldn’t justify it financially.
“Every budget cycle, we looked and said, ‘Can we do it this year?’ and the answer was no,” Lee told the MDJ. But just as the Parks Coalition members feel the time is right, Lee’s actions are evidence the county is ready to pursue the project once again.
Parks and greenspace play a large role in the desirability of a community. Those areas that thrive make sure residents have the opportunity for good parks and recreation.
Commissioners need to understand this and do what is necessary to rejuvenate the public’s will expressed in the 2008 vote. And they need to do it quickly.
Greenspace needs to be among the top priorities for county commissioners and staff in 2016.
Published in the Marietta Daily Journal on January 3, 2016. View the original link here.