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IU’s, Bloomington’s green space shrinks

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Dec. 4, 2007 

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The city has lost about a quarter of its green space over the last 14 years, according to the latest research of the Bloomington Environmental Commission.

Mick Renneisen, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said the report might be more shocking than expected because of what the Environmental Commission defined as green space. The report does not include areas that are within 10 feet of a building or pavement, including hiking trails in parks or areas less than one square acre of contiguous green space.

According to the Parks and Recreation Department, the city’s parks own 2,242 acres of “green” property, because they did include the areas that were near buildings and trails in the parks.

In Renneisen’s 26 years at the department, he said the administrations of current Mayor Mark Kruzan and former Mayor John Fernandez have made the environment a “high priority.”

“I would like to think that if you are enjoying the natural environment you might be a little be more attuned to the peacefulness and benefits that environment provides and a little less focused on ... hustle and bustle and stress,” Renneisen said.

Heather Reynolds, the Environmental Commission chair, said those benefits included lowering global climate change.

According to the report, IU has lost 4.8 percent of its green space over the last 14 years.

But Reynolds said the report can be misleading because much of the green land IU owns is outside of the city limits, such as the IU Research and Teaching Preserve.

“I believe IU does (have a responsibility),” Reynolds said. “And they’ve demonstrated that commitment and that responsibility they feel.”

Agreeing with Reynolds, Renneisen said compared to other college towns of comparable size, such as Boulder, Colo., Bloomington usually ranks in the top one or two cities in preserving green space.

“I think (IU has) a big responsibility,” he said. “They’re a major owner of property in our community. ... They’re a key player of green space in our community.”

According to the report, the city will be entirely without green space in 27 years if its keeps losing it at the same rate. Renneisen said that fact was an illogical conclusion the report drew because “green space loss is (not) on a linear plane.”

Reynolds said the information the report yielded showed the loss was not due to business but instead residential development. In fact, she said, only 11 percent of the green space lost was designated for commercial purposes.

“So we’re developing green space for homes essentially,” she said.

Reynolds said possible solutions to this are smaller yards in residential neighborhoods that would allow for greater green space. She also said the community needs “to reconsider this land-greedy pattern of residential development.”

Renneisen said contrary to popular belief, green space and industry go “hand in hand.”

Because of the “tranquil” environment green space promotes, Renneisen said businesses and their employees are attracted to more scenic areas.

“The challenge I think is always balance,” Renneisen said. “You’ve got to protect green space, but at the same time development is going to occur ... and I think our community understands that.”

He said many residents constantly seek new green space. While this effort is noble, Renneisen said balance is needed to keep the city attractive

and productive.

Even though the community has “limited resources,” Renneisen stressed the importance of natural beauty and tranquility.

“Imagine Hawaii if it were all developed,” Renneisen said. “It wouldn’t be a tourist attraction anymore would it?”

 

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