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Letter to the Editor: Why is a 'greenprint' critical for preserving Milton?


March 04, 2014
Preserve Rural Milton is a nonprofit organization that is focused on strategies to preserve Milton's rural heritage and character. We are working with the city to encourage the creation of public policy and plans regarding limiting development and retaining the rural character and pastoral views for which the city is known. In addition, we also explore private options for land conservation through land trusts and we are establishing a large visible presence of people interested in investing in the future of our city and in local land conservation.

The primary initiative that Preserve Rural Milton is asking the city to create is a detailed strategic plan, known as a greenprint, to address the community's current crisis regarding rapidly disappearing undeveloped land and rural character. Because a greenprint represents such large shift in perspective and because we are losing acres of our community's undeveloped land on a daily basis, it is essential for the city to retain recognized, professional expertise to formulate the greenprint as soon as possible.

Here is why a greenprint is so important. A traditional comprehensive city plan is a strategic plan or visioning that details zoning, transportation, character areas and potential development. It primarily focuses on city infrastructure, the substructure or underlying foundation on which the continuance and growth of the community or state depends. So a traditional city plan is a strategic plan which accounts for projected growth and development. It took many hours and many thoughtful people to create our current comprehensive plan.

However, as a new rush of development is upon us, it is apparent that additional thought and planning are needed to ensure the preservation of the city's rural character and to conserve the land that represents the core of the city's identity. A greenprint is the embodiment of this thought and planning. It is a detailed adjunct to a comprehensive plan that focuses on green infrastructure. In "Green Infrastructure," authors Benedict and Mahon define green infrastructure as an interconnected network of natural areas and other open spaces that conserves natural ecosystems, values and functions, sustains clean air and water and provides a wide array of benefits to people and wildlife.

Greenprints involve a change in ways of thinking about city planning. A greenprint is not just about looking at parks within the city. It lays the foundation for understanding natural ecological systems which are essential to our city's sustainability and the essence of the rural life that we appreciate. It elevates the importance of land conservation and natural systems to a level that warrants active protection, management and, in some cases, restoration. And it means raising the importance of land conservation to the same level as traditional infrastructure planning.

Through a combination of scientific information and feedback from the community, greenprints identify undeveloped land, environmental features (including topography and ecologically sensitive areas), plans for land preservation, future parks for passive recreation and environmentally sensitive areas. Greenprints identify and prioritize plans for wildlife habitats, lands that the community enjoys as iconic scenes and spaces as well as plans for preservation of specimen trees and pasture land. A greenprint becomes the guide as to how and where to implement the many tools that the city has been looking at: conservation subdivisions, conservation easements, purchase of development rights, rural view sheds and acquisition of additional park land. These are all essential components for the city to save our rural identity. Without the greenprint, research indicates efforts are likely to be less effective or used haphazardly.

In conclusion, the city has a reputation for, and often touts, its rural character. The greenprint serves as a guide for the community to allow for both development and for protection of our rural lands, the essence of our city's unique identity.

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