News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 13, 2014

YOUR GREEN VALLEY: The importance of preserving green space — in and out of the city

Before Sullivan County resident Joan Osburn bought her home in the mid-1970s, the current owner wanted to make sure she and her husband were going to treat the land that came with it with respect. “The first time we came to look at the property, it was kind of funny because she walked our legs off,” Osburn said. The 40-acre property resembles McCormick’s Creek State Park, fit with walking trails, ravines and waterfalls.

She was offered quite a bit of money from a lumber company to cut the trees, Osburn recalled. The Osburns were able to convince the owner they would protect those trees. “She was real happy to find someone with her same values,” Osburn said.

Now, some four decades later, the Osburns have carried on the tradition by putting their property into a conservation easement with the help of the Ouabache Land Conservancy. The purpose of the easement is to protect the land as much as possible in its natural state. This extra legal assurance provides piece of mind; if the property is sold, it cannot be divided up into parcels, clear cut or be the future home of a strip mall.

The property is tucked off the road. Two ponds have been added to attract more wildlife, from Great Blue Heron’s to deer. The land has been the site of many events during the past century. Osburn says in the early 1900s, when Graysville still had a high school, the students would have picnics on the property.

“There is a great big beech tree here, and it has peoples’ initials on it with names and hearts around them carved into the tree,” from those picnics, Osburn said.

Preserving those memories — and history and nature — gives Osburn the satisfaction of knowing she is helping protect the environment. For more information about the Ouabache Land Conservancy, visit ouabachelandconservancy.weebly.com.

Land trusts in the city

From large masses of property to neighborhood-sized parcels, people are realizing a little bit of green goes a long way. In California, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust is leading the way to healthier, safer and stronger communities by creating green and recreational spaces in underserved neighborhoods.

“Our founders felt it was important to establish a land trust so that we could utilize all the tools in our toolbox to try and ensure that not only is the community involved in these spaces but that these properties are protected long term,” Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust Executive Director Alina Bokde said.

They work off the standard that every neighborhood with more than 1,000 people deserves to have three acres of park or open space. “Our vision is that every child should be able to walk to a park or open space within 10-15 minutes,” Bokde said. Many of the communities have no or very little amount of parks or open space which can have significant impact on higher rates of obesity, diabetes and mental health issues.

Bokde shares the story of a young third-grader who is being raised by his grandmother. The child was fairly unruly and was not doing well in school. About a year ago, a park was installed in their neighborhood and the young boy fell in love with the park and started going every day. “His grandmother made a deal with him that he could go to the park every day if he did well in school and listened to her,” Bokde said. His behavior changed 180 degrees and he has since been achieving straight A’s in school. Bokde feels the park literally changed his personality and ultimately impacted his future in a positive way.

Gardens as land trusts

If protecting green space for the sake of having green space is not enough, think about making sure a community garden will always have a place in an urban setting. We have two community gardens in the City of Terre Haute, but what will happen to these gardens as the surrounding areas continue to develop? In upstate New York, the Capital District Community Gardens have arranged for the community gardens to stay as they are.

“Our founder had the foresight to realize that these were important green spaces and that we needed to preserve them and that we couldn’t just count on the generosity of others in letting us use a piece of land and that it was important to preserve them forever,” Capital District Community Gardens Executive Director Amy Klein said.

Their founder started a permanent fund for the organization in order to purchase land through foreclosures and also take donations of property. They are now celebrating 39 years as a nonprofit committed to nourishing healthy communities by providing access to fresh food. To date, they have 50 community gardens and about 4,000 people growing food.

For more information on Capital District Community Gardens visit www.cdcg.org.

Green spaces foster a connection between community residents and the natural environment that surrounds them, thus allowing for a more livable city. They are essential in order for a community to be sustainable.

Jane Santucci is an environmental freelance writer for the Tribune-Star. Santucci is a proud volunteer with TREES Inc. and sits on the Wabash Valley Goodwill Industries Board of Directors. Share your environmental stories and tips with her at JaneSantucci@yourgreenvalley.com.

 

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