What we are talking about

 

Parks

 

We are fortunate. City leaders before us established rules that require parks in neighborhoods – play parks and green spaces. Natural areas flank waterways and the river. Walking trails follow hillsides and streams and the river.

 

Other cities may have large parks that divide neighborhoods and create barriers. Our parks unite us. They are places to go, but also places that just are. Woods in the neighborhood, a green field, a playground, a quiet bench by the water – and a place to walk past or see on the drive home. Parks give us that piece of nature that makes living in the City better, home to plants and birds, squirrels and woodchuck and – yes – even deer.

 

Parks are magical places that our community creates and maintains.

 

Of course, our parks are also an investment, not just in money but also in time. They are an investment for our future, and for the future of our community. Voters have approved a millage that generates about $5 million each year for park maintenance and improvements.

 

Parks can be damaged when nearby systems fail – when water mains break, when the river floods, when disease damages trees, and when invasive species push out the desired native plants.

 

 

What's going on now?

 

 

There are two opportunities right now that we ought to do to improve our park system and improve our community. It's time to build the Allen Creek Greenway – a park that can unite neighborhoods to the river and to downtown.

 

And it's time to establish a park next to the downtown library.

 

The City and its residents have talked about both projects for over 20 years. Creating these parks takes a commitment from the community as well as from the City.

 

The City Council has already established a minimum size for a public space next to the Library, and the City issued a Request for Proposals, offering private developers the opportunity to design this space along with a building on the Library Lot. If the Council agrees, the public space could be created and maintained by a private developer – and that public space would be treated as a public park, with the right to congregate and meet there protected.

 

The City Council supported the creation of a master plan for the Greenway – this plan should include land acquisition recommendations as well as recommended projects to improve the biking and walking experience.

 

Here's where I stand

 

I have actively supported the establishment of the Allen Creek Greenway for more than a decade, and have become convinced that the biggest obstacle to the Greenway is our need to establish a destination. Right now, even if we follow the Allen Creek, we cannot get to the Huron River efficiently. I watch people cross the railroad tracks illegally – and hear the complaints when the railroad issues them a ticket. The City must work with MDOT to not only improve North Main but also to establish a route over or under the railroad tracks. Once that route is established, the rest of the Allen Creek Greenway will follow.

 

A park on the Library Lot would be a benefit to the community. There is already a park on that block – at Division and Liberty. We have learned that just placing a park in downtown does not guarantee the design will work for the community. But a good design could create a better experience for everyone. I don't support selling the right to build on the Library Lot just for the revenue, however. Any proposal must create a significant benefit – a well designed park – in order to be selected. Right now, developers have submitted plans but they aren't public, and no decision about a plan has been made.

 

Rating our community

 

“When Ann Arbor is ranked against other communities, it gets rave reviews - as a place for young people, a place for families, a place for retirees . . . One feature that unites us is our parks - they are in our neighborhoods, through our woodlands and by the river. Our task is to balance our reverence for nature with the pressure to develop and build. ”

 

– Sabra Briere

 

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Paid for by Sabra Briere for City Council, 1418 Broadway, Ann Arbor, MI  48105