Nashville’s Green spaces Hold Key to its Future Success
March 15, 2015
by: David Plazas
[*If you care about the future of Nashville please attend our April 22: Mayoral Forum on Land and Water Conservation.]
We can’t talk about all that Nashville has to offer its natives, newcomers and visitors without acknowledging the majestic beauty of its parks, green spaces and waterways.
Hikes or walks in Edwin, Percy Warner, Shelby Park or Radnor Lake State Park, among others, can become spiritual experiences that awe you with Tennessee’s natural beauty.
Events at Centennial Park or Bicentennial Park bring out the best in our creative and musical community.
Amid the increasing residential and commercial development, Nashville’s cachet as a tourist destination and its history as “Music City,” the natural environment in Middle Tennessee is one of the region’s strongest assets.
Davidson County boasts among the most diverse and complex species of trees and fish in the world.
The 17,000 participants in the urban planning experience called NashvilleNext think so, too. After three years, a draft report is coming out on March 27 for public input, and a public hearing is scheduled for June to develop the road map for Nashville over the next 25 years.
In the “Preferred Future” that Nashville residents envision for themselves in the NashvilleNext process, protecting sensitive environmental features is one of six key principles.
It has to be, as our city leaders need to find ways to balance growth with environmental protection.
About 1 million people are expected to move into the Cumberland River region by 2040, so making the necessary investments now are critical to balance that growth and promote sustainability.
Growing green spaces
Nashville has more than 13,000 acres of open space, according to the Metro Nashville Parks and Recreation Department. That includes 121 parks and 19 greenways, where runners, cyclists and walkers enjoy the outdoors safely.
In 2011 Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and the Land Trust for Tennessee committed to preserving 22,000 acres of public and private land over 25 years.
This was an ambitious goal, but the Dean administration has made headway, having preserved 3,348 acres of parkland, for example.
Preserving and protecting the environment also have the practical effect of improving people’s health through cleaner air and safer drinking water, which comes from the Cumberland River.
In a state capital, which boasts being the nation’s health care capital, health care outcomes are poor in Tennessee.
In a recent article in The Tennessean, health care business reporter Holly Fletcher wrote that Tennessee ranks 45th in the nation in overall health. In addition “about 70 percent of the state is either overweight or obese.” Continuing that trend will only worsen our collective quality of life.
Connect with experts
“It’s frightening to consider that Nashville’s going to grow by 1 million more people,” said Kathleen Williams, president and executive director of the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation, also known as TennGreen, a nonprofit that works to protect the state’s natural beauty.
“For the health and sanity of people, quality of life and pure enjoyment of being here, we need more opportunities to play,” Williams said. “We need good quality air. Having a good force to buffer Nashville is a consideration.”
Williams said the development and growth of Nashville doesn’t run contrary to preserving the county’s natural beauty and growing its natural spaces; rather, they complement each other.
You can add your voice and ask questions to Williams and Parks and Recreation Assistant Director Shain Dennison about green spaces, greenways, parks and the environment in a live chat at 10 a.m. Wednesday on www.tennessean.com.
If you care about the future of this community, you need to care about its ecological health. It’s a worthwhile investment that will help us evolve, as some have put it, from “It City” to a great city.
Live chats with experts
Join or replay live chats with experts on different topics at 10 a.m. daily Monday through Thursday at Tennessean.com.
Monday: Live chat with Richard C. Bernhardt on an overview of NashvilleNext
Tuesday: Live chat with Steve Bland of Nashville MTA on transit
Wednesday: Live chat with Kathleen Williams of TennGreen on open spaces
Thursday: Live chat with Metro Planning Commissioner Jessica Farr on affordable housing
March 27: Draft NashvilleNext plan to be posted online, ready for online comment
April 18: Public event celebrating NashvilleNext plan at Tennessee State University
April 20 and 27: Public drop-in sessions (another may be added on April 28)
April 30: Public comment period on the draft plan ends
May 11: Static draft to be posted online (tentative)
June 11: Metro Planning Commission to hold public hearing on NashvilleNext plan
Source: Metro Planning Department