We Need to Invest in Open Space

Charles McGlashan

HERE IN MARIN, we know the value of our natural environment. Many of us were drawn to this place by Mount Tamalpais, the ancient redwood groves, the rugged coast, the miles of trails.

We savor the local cheeses, vegetables and fruit. We drink from watersheds that collect and filter our precious rain. We enjoy these landscapes today thanks to people who spoke up to preserve them, and to past investments that are now priceless.

Marin’s protected open space is all the more valuable because it is rare: Much of the rest of the country has not made the same choices. But this is a time of change nationwide, a time to re-examine priorities and build consensus on how to invest in something sustainable, something lasting.

A new report shows how the Bay Area can lead the way.

“Golden Lands, Golden Opportunity” is the result of a committed effort over the past two years by more than 100 conservation organizations around the nine-county Bay Area. Led by Greenbelt Alliance and the Bay Area Open Space Council, together with the Association of Bay Area Governments, this collaboration brought together land managers and conservation leaders from every corner of the region to ask: How can we finally knit together the region’s network of open space?

Places like Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods stand out—but like any part of a network, open space is healthier when interconnected. Many vital areas are still unprotected.

According to the Trust for Public Land, 62 percent of Bay Area children under 15 do not have a park within walking distance of their home. In lower-income areas, the problem is even worse.

We also need to invest in high-priority land, to create parks and keep them clean, safe, and healthy.

Here in Marin, we can close gaps in our own system of protected lands to preserve habitat, complete wildlife corridors and trail connections, and save wetlands—15,000 acres, according to the Marin County Department of Parks and Open Space.

Third, we need to adopt strong policies—like urban growth boundaries and hillside and agricultural protections—to focus development in our existing cities and towns, and keep our local farms in business.

Safeguarding our green infrastructure is a smart investment in the water we drink, the food we eat, and the climate we’re leaving to our children. It’s also a smart investment in the scenic setting that attracts businesses, workers, and visitors to Marin and the Bay Area, a meaningful share of our $400 billion economy.

Even here in Marin, our work is not done. Lands we take for granted are not protected. We know that once they’re gone, they’re gone forever—so let’s not miss this golden opportunity.

Charles McGlashan of Mill Valley is a member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors. He also is a member of the board of Greenbelt Alliance.

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