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Re: SG-W:/ Re: Great Counties have great parks


The discussion of active recreation versus natural areas is a difficult one
for me, since I value both highly.  I think this issue is one where people of
good conscience can differ, and I hope we can accept our diversity of values
and debate proper policy without being disagreeable towards one another.  E-mail
is a cold, impersonal medium that often conveys a more negative tone than the
writer intended, so we should all try to exercise due care in how we express
our thoughts and how we interpret others' emails.

As for the substance of the discussion, I'd like to focus on what policies we
should advocate rather than waste time debating whether soccer fields are or
are not "beautiful."  It seems to me that we're arguing about a false choice:
 natural areas versus ball fields.  The reality is that we need both.  We need
natural areas to safeguard the health of the ecosystems on which human societies
and economies, and all life, depend.  We also need to set aside space for active
recreation, for the physical and psychological health of our children and ourselves.

The irony is that we can have both!  The real choice is not between ball fields
and forests.  The choice is between neighborhood recreational areas (parks or
neighborhood schools) and natural area preservation on the one hand, and suburban
sprawl (low density/large-lot subdivisions, big box retailers, huge parking
lots, automobile-dependent/pedestrian-hostile transportation systems, overly
large setback requirements for buildings and homes, etc.) on the other.  If
we use land more efficiently for housing, offices, factories, and shopping areas,
then there's more land left for all needs.  If we build higher-density housing
developments (like Burns Park or the Old West Side) and commercial centers (like
Main Street), then we can better afford to build neighborhood schools that provide
active recreation on their campus -- and still end up using less land than a
typical "modern" suburban development.

Personally, I'd rather share 200 acres of common space (parks and ball fields)
with 100 other people than have each of us own a couple of acres but have no
common spaces.  That's the real choice, in my view, given the planet's limited
land area.  In the end, wouldn't we be better off if we lived in more vibrant
neighborhoods with nearby schools and parks, while preserving more acreage as
natural areas and farmland?  

>Excuse me for butting in, but as the father of a nine-year-old who sleeps,

>eats and dreams soccer and is happiest when she is chasing a black-and-white

>ball down a field on a bright, brisk, sunny Saturday morning, I have to
>respond to Ms. Armentrout's input.  She is of course absolutely correct that

>soccer fields do little in terms of global warming or biological diversity

>and are actually detrimental to the extent that pesticides are used.  I
>respectfully disagree with her that they are visually less pleasing than
>open space, however.  I find nothing lovelier than watching a group of
>children laughing and running and playing together outside, enjoying fresh

>air and the outdoors, as opposed to typing alone on computer keyboards and

>staring at monitors in their bedrooms and basements.  My daughter's love of

>the outdoors is expanded by playing soccer, not diminished.  And my
>understanding is that this sport is immensely popular and the number of
>enthusiasts in fact grows by leaps and bounds each year - it is certainly no

>longer a "small segment" of the population that enjoys it.  There are
>purists and there are realists.  Let's go after the realtors and strip mall

>developers and leave the playgrounds and soccer fields alone for now.
>Pat Diehl
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Vivienne Armentrout <varmentrout000@ameritech.net>
>To: Anne Heise <aheise@orchard.wccnet.org>
>Cc: Barry Lonik <BLonik13@aol.com>; Leah Gunn <gunnl@co.washtenaw.mi.us>;
>Janis Bobrin <bobrinj@co.washtenaw.mi.us>; Laura Rubin <lrubin@hrwc.org>;
>Mike Garfield <michaelg@ecocenter.org>; smartgrowth-washtenaw
>Sent: Sunday, April 16, 2000 10:39 AM
>Subject: SG-W:/ Re: Great Counties have great parks
>> The problem I have with this is that it is all about soccer fields.  I
>> am in favor of multiuse parks, but in my opinion we need to concentrate
>> on preservation of natural areas, which are used primarily for passive
>> recreation (though what is passive about hiking and enjoying wildlife, I

>> have never understood).  Natural areas - uh, are natural, that is, they
>> preserve our biological inheritance.  They are also good for clean
>> water, clean air, and reducing global warming.  Even to drive by they
>> enhance the visual impression of countryside.
>> Soccer fields require turf and no trees.  Turf by its nature requires
>> application of fertilizers and pesticides (I've seen descriptions of
>> "green" golfcourses but not "green" soccerfields) and therefore will
>> lead to eutrophication of water supplies.  Although I guess they are
>> "open space", they are not particularly lovely and can mostly be enjoyed

>> only by the small segment of the population who wants to play soccer or
>> some other games.  They do nothing to preserve biological diversity.
>> In my opinion, the drive for recreational land is a direct threat to
>> real preservation of open space.  Any vehicle to purchase open space
>> (e.g., a millage) needs to be protected from it.
>> Vivienne Armentrout
>> Anne Heise wrote:
>> >
>> > Metro suburbs run out of places for kids to play
>> > Officials seek money, share fields to fill recreation needs
>> >
>> > By Edward L. Cardenas,, Kevin Lynch and Joel Kurth / The Detroit News
>> >
>> > GROSSE POINTE WOODS -- On many Saturdays, Richard Carron finds himself

>> > watching the clock as often as the kids and soccer game he is coaching.

>> >
>> > Time is of the essence for coaches like Carron and players on the
>> > fields ofthe five Grosse Pointes and Harper Woods.
>> >
>> > "On game days, teams get on and get off so the next team can get on,"
>> > Carron said. "It becomes hard to get rain dates games played because
>> > the fields are hard to find."
>> >
>> > Many Metro Detroit communities are struggling to find enough time and
>> > space to satisfy growing recreational needs. The problem is particularly

>> > severe in older, fully developed suburbs where land is scarce. This
>> > recreation dilemma is forcing many to reevaluate the recreational needs

>> > their residents.
>> >
>> > "We have stretched our facilities beyond maximum,"
>> > said John Bruce, executive director of the Neighborhood Club, which
>> > provides sports and recreation programming to the nearly 60,000
>> > in the five Gross Pointes and Harper Woods.
>> >
>> > "We have such a great community we want to take it
>> > up a notch," said Sharon Cahill of Grosse Pointe Park, who attended a
>> > recent community forum sponsored by the Neighborhood Club to get input

>> > a recreation master plan for the six eastern Wayne County suburbs. She

>> > five children involved in a variety of sports.
>> >
>> > "I'm really excited (about the plan). This is what the Grosse Pointes
>> > all about, "Cahill said.
>> >
>> > Practice and playing time is at a premium for the 8,000 children and
>> > adults who play on 700 teams in a variety of sports in the communities,

>> > Bruce said. These baseball, soccer and basketball teams use a mix of
>> > athletic fields owned by the municipalities and the Grosse Pointe Public

>> > School System.
>> >
>> > Carron, who has three teams in the two Grosse Pointe soccer
>> > said the crunch forces him to be creative in carving out practice and
>> > times on the precious few playing fields in the area. He has used
>> > of grass, less than regulation field size, with homemade pipe goals to

>> > prepare his teams for games.
>> >
>> > "It has become more difficult to get quality fields or a quantity of
>> > fields for practices," said Carron of Grosse Pointe Wood.
>> >
>> > Orion Twp. seeks space
>> >
>> > Swelling populations also have some Oakland County communities
>> > to meet increasing demands for recreation.
>> >
>> > "It puts us in a bit of a bind, to be honest," said Rock Blanchard,
>> > Township's director of parks and recreation.
>> >
>> > "They want the same services, but none of the bad stuff. They don't want

>> > the dark alley they left to avoid, but they still need the playgrounds,

>> > basketball courts and ice-hockey rinks they are accustomed to."
>> >
>> > Orion Township's population has risen 48 percent since 1990 to 31,000
>> > people, but tax revenues haven't kept pace with the growth and
>> > expectations of residents. Township officials will meet next week to
>> > consider a tax increase to raise $7 million for park improvements and
>> > purchases. About $2 million of the proposed increase would go to buy
>> >
>> > Blanchard couldn't say how much undeveloped land remains in the
>> > 20,000-acre township. But he did say developers are snatching up tracts

>> > before the township can react.
>> >
>> > "We're having to play catch-up. We should have bought land a long time

>> > ago, but we missed out."
>> >
>> >                         Racing for recreation
>> >
>> > Plymouth Assistant City Manager Paul Sincock looks at neighboring Canton

>> > Township and Northville. Both of those western Wayne communities have
>> > plenty of land for recreation. Then he looks at his own, older city
>> > lacks those land resources and the exploding tax base of its growing
>> > neighbors.
>> >
>> > Sincock and other Plymouth officials just want to keep up in the race
>> > recreation.
>> >
>> > "Certainly, Canton Township and even Northville have been very
>> > about getting a hold of land for public parks," Sincock said. "We've got

>> > to be a little more creative when it comes to recreation."
>> >
>> > Aside from numerous neighborhood parks too small to be used for
>> > sports, Plymouth owns no recreational land. Rather, it forms
>> > with schools, businesses and other local governments to use sports
>> > for city leagues in baseball, basketball, football and soccer.
>> >
>> > Ford Motor Co. and Unysis allow those leagues to play soccer on their
>> > corporate lawns. Plymouth pays for the extra insurance the companies
>> > carry and Wayne County sets aside time for Plymouth sports teams in
>> > Park. Almost every school in Plymouth lends the city the use of its
>> > fields.
>> >
>> > Bruce said the Neighborhood Club in the Grosse Pointes, which contracted

>> > with McKenna Associates to create a master plan for recreation for the

>> > next 10 to 15 years, may look into a similar situation.
>> >
>> > "We are not going to be able to provide major recreation facilities
>> > improvement without some type of collaborative structure," Bruce said.

>> >
>> > Auburn Hills sets pace
>> >
>> > In contrast, Auburn Hills has splurged, carving out green spaces to
>> > accommodate residential and business growth from the Palace of Auburn
>> > Hills and DaimlerChrysler office complexes.
>> >
>> > The city has spent more than $17 million in the past 10 years buying
>> > Fieldstone Gulf Club of Auburn Hills; the E. Dale Fisk Hawk Woods Nature

>> > Center that offers trails and cabins; and building paths along the
>> > River.
>> >
>> > It is involved in a $500,000 plan to build a yet-unnamed park on 25
>> > on Squirrel near M-59. That park would be connected with pathways to
>> > nearby Riverside Park.
>> >
>> > But only about 1,000 available acres of land remain in Auburn Hills, and

>> > residents are clamoring for soccer fields and other amenities,
>> > director Brian Marzolf said.
>> >
>> > "When people are looking to move in, they ask about our parks," Marzolf

>> > said. "It's a big factor in moving. Corporations are trying to sell
>> > to employees, too. It's a go-go life, and people want places to slow
>> > a bit and relax."
>> >
>> > Macomb Twp. creates parks
>> >
>> > Another fast-growing Metro Detroit community, Macomb Township, also is

>> > trying to appease its residents' hunger for parks, ball diamonds and
>> > soccer fields.
>> >
>> > Four years ago, Macomb Township voters passed a 1-mill recreation
>> > to create a parks and recreation department. Three large parks are being

>> > developed and year-round programming provided for all ages.
>> >
>> > "It is very rare in our profession to start a program from scratch,"
>> > Marty Pipenbrok, Macomb Township parks and recreation director. "We are

>> > taking a very family oriented attitude, so everyone can take part in the

>> > programs and share in the experience."
>> >
>> > The township is building its first fully developed park on a 17-acre
>> > parcel near 21 Mile and Romeo Plank. It is expected to open to the
>> > by next summer. Two other parks will be developed on 400 acres near 25

>> > Mile and Broughton, where the new township hall will be built later this

>> > year.
>> >
>> > Canton Township in western Wayne County, like Macomb Township, has
>> > of land for sports fields. What is stopping the list of recent
>> > projects in Canton from growing even longer is the rising cost of real

>> > estate.
>> >
>> > "We may have the land out here, but it comes at a steep price these
>> > said Mike Gouin, Canton's parks and recreation manager. But even when it

>> > means higher taxes, Gouin points out, residents want their sports
>> > Voters approved a bond issue to pay for the $4.7-million purchase of a

>> > 12-diamond softball park in 1998. Gouin now has his eye on 80 acres of

>> > land next to 40 acres the township already owns for yet another park.
>> >
>> > "I think the demand has always been there," Gouin said. "Fortunately in

>> > the last 10 years, we have developed the financial resources to respond

>> > residents who want recreation close to home."
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