Humphrey Institute presents a discussion on open space in Metro

On any afternoon, University students can be found playing Frisbee in the grass of Northrop Mall or digging through the fields of the St. Paul campus. On Wednesday, the Humphrey InstituteâÄôs State and Local Policy Program is sponsoring a brown-bag lunch discussion on how communities can preserve similar open spaces and how these spaces benefit people. Jenna Fletcher , a University alumna and program coordinator of Embrace Open Space, will give a presentation. Embrace Open Space is a Twin Cities-wide partnership of groups trying to preserve and create open and natural spaces in the 11-county metropolitan area. Open space can include parks, lakes or other areas with access for the general public, Fletcher said. The existence of open space can benefit peopleâÄôs health and quality of life, while also providing economic benefits, she said. âÄúIn Washington County, a study found at least a $15,750 increase in home values for homes within 200 yards of open space,âÄù she said. âÄúWeâÄôre not anti-development at all, but we want communities to better âĦ understand that open space is just as important as development.âÄù EOS provides technological support to citizens, citizen groups and local governments attempting to preserve land, but also helps citizens to gain first-hand experience with open space in their area. âÄúWe have natural area events where we can get people onto the land and celebrate successes,âÄù she said. âÄúPeople can have the opportunity to see why we do this work.âÄù On Wednesday, Fletcher will present the results of a broad survey EOS conducted of all 284 cities, counties and townships in the metropolitan area. The surveys, which were completed by community planners, gauged each communityâÄôs interest in preserving open space and examined the local zoning ordinances, which Fletcher said could either help or hinder attempts at land preservation. âÄúCities need to have ordinances in place that allow the grouping of density in one area while leaving another,âÄù she said. In a related project, EOS recently partnered with the UniversityâÄôs Metropolitan Design Center to visualize how these increases in population density can help preserve nearby open space, David Lowe , a coordinator of the Metropolitan Design Center said. Andrew Phelan, a staff member who served on the team responsible for updating the UniversityâÄôs Master Plan in regards to open space, said each area of campus has distinct open spaces that are used for different purposes. âÄúThe campus is a mixture of urban space and, remarkably, in the middle of St. Paul or Falcon Heights or Roseville , a farm,âÄù Phelan said. âÄúThey add to the majesty of campus.âÄù The UniversityâÄôs updated Master Plan, which Phelan said is in progress, will likely reflect a greater emphasis on preserving natural spaces, both for recreation and education. An interest in land preservation isnâÄôt isolated to academia, Fletcher said. âÄúIn the last decade, peopleâÄôs awareness and interest in open space is a lot higher,âÄù Fletcher said. âÄúIf they donâÄôt view it as an urgent issue, they donâÄôt act.âÄù