Journal of Comparative Urban Law and Policy


Finding an effective approach to conserve large-scale, multipurpose open spaces through a coordinated network across jurisdictional boundary lines has proved elusive. Because open space infrastructure serves so many functions ranging from recreational trails to ecological systems protection, decision makers have often treated open space as a subpart of another activity and overlooked its importance. After discussing the benefits of open space conservation, this article analyzes the impediments to its realization. Noting the institutional fragmentation that surrounds open space conservation, the article discusses the governmental and private sector bodies that implement actions designed to achieve it. The article argues that open space conservation should be institutionalized on a watershed basis, which most likely covers a geographical area of regional scope crossing a number of local government boundary lines. Thus, the protection of open and green spaces can best be effectuated by a regional governance structure involving collaboration and coordination among state and local governments and the private sector. The federal government can incentivize intergovernmental natural resource protection by making regionally based open space planning a condition for the receipt of federal funds just as it does in the transportation funding realm. Too often governmental officials have marginalized open space conservation efforts by failing to allocate necessary resources for this purpose. The protection of distinct areas of the natural landscape from development provides essential ecological benefits; accordingly, this green space should be treated as vital public infrastructure created and maintained for the public good.

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