Parks, Recreation and the Environment -- Challenges and Opportunities

 

This section examines parkland available to residents, as well as natural resource protection ordinances and green initiatives instituted by the local government. While people relocate and settle in places that are appealing for a variety of reasons, the provision of high quality parks and recreation programs, and protection of the natural environment are often important factors.

Communal areas, like parks and recreation facilities, provide places for people to gather, help to connect communities, and have an influence on other factors such as crime and health. Parks and recreational facilities offer places for children and adults to exercise and participate in team activities. The ability to participate in such activities can have a positive impact on the overall health of a community’s residents. Issues such as childhood obesity and heart disease can be mitigated through exercise that might take place at parks and recreation facilities.

Open space and natural resources areas provide resource conservation, wildlife, and recreational benefits, as well as relief from urban development. Like parks, natural resources increase property values and provide educational opportunities, in addition to providing a number of “free” ecosystem services like flood storage, moderation of climate, and air purification. They also provide communities with green infrastructure that naturally manage stormwater, reduce flooding risk, and
improve water quality.

Green infrastructure can be thought of as a system of interconnected open spaces of various types that help to preserve ecosystems while also benefiting surrounding human populations. In order to encourage thriving natural and human communities, green infrastructure planning treats open spaces as a necessary and beneficial aspect of urban and suburban environments. By incorporating green space networks into our communities, we improve our own quality of life as well as the health of
the natural world.

A healthy environment provides a strong foundation for a community’s quality of life. Having clean air, water bodies, and drinking water allows residents to fully enjoy the other amenities a place has to offer. Green initiatives are also becoming increasing important quality of life factors to existing and future residents. More and more often, people want to live in a community that respects the environment and shows this through leadership of green initiatives at the local level, where they can actively participate. Green initiatives in a community can include things such as recycling programs, climate protection programs for local businesses, and energy savings solution for residents and businesses alike, just to name a few.

Specific indicators in this section include:

  • Municipal Parkland
  • Existing and future Open Space per 1,000 residents
  • Natural Resources Protection Ordinances
  • Green Initiatives

Continually, communities that are ranked as best places to live by such publications as Money Magazine list the provision of parks as a top priority. As such, communities desiring to provide, or improve quality of life, look to provide additional parks and recreation amenities.

Today

The City of Olathe provides a very high level of service in the provision of parkland. There are approximately 1900 acres of parkland in the City of Olathe, or 15.33 acres per 1,000 people. While no national average is available for this indicator, previously adopted National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) guidelines recommended that communities provide up to 8 acres of parkland per 1,000 people between neighborhood, community, and district parks. Combining other open
space in addition to parks, such as subdivision common areas and semi-private outdoor recreation areas. Olathe provides approximately 2,700 acres of total open space today, or 21.80 acres per 1,000 people. The City of Olathe is doing an excellent job in the provision of parkland for its residents, and can continue to do so by ensuring that policy mechanisms for parkland and open space remain in place as future development occurs.

There is no national average for the provision of natural resource protection ordinances or green initiatives. On a scale of 1 to 5, Olathe scores low with a 1 on natural resource protection ordinances, and a 2 on design guidelines. Olathe’s standards, by and large, match federal requirements for floodplain and wetland protection and suggested best management practices for water quality. High ranking communities in this category utilize provisions or programs such as:

  • local regulations protecting wetlands, natural habitat and natural landscape features, all that surpass federal standards;
  • solar protection siting standards for new subdivisions;
  • a dedicated sales tax for acquisition of natural open space lands that have unique geologic features, natural habitat or native species, and prime farmland;
  • override of private covenants that prohibit energy saving devices, e.g., solar panels and clotheslines; and
  • a wind power option for electricity customers and an energy saving program with financial incentives.

Like most of the surveyed communities, Olathe has already instituted an excellent curbside recycling program. Olathe continues to make progress in establishing natural resource protection ordinances and green initiatives, but there is more that can be done. Increasingly, both existing and future residents desire to live in a community that places emphasis on protecting the natural resources and environment around them. This can be achieved through the establishment of natural resource protection ordinances and other green initiatives for the local community.

 

 

In the Future

PlanOlathe provides a balanced system of open space composed of environmentally sensitive areas, natural areas, wildlife corridors, habitat areas, trails and greenways using a variety of conservation methods that meet both the needs of the citizens and the City’s resource protection goals. Lands with conservation values (see Greenways) have been identified on the Future Land Use Map as conservation priorities as development occurs.

Expansion of Olathe’s greenway system is one of the major elements of PlanOlathe. The Plan calls for preservation and reclamation of streamway corridors for natural ecosystems, trails, to improve air quality and wildlife habitat, and to provide a contrast and amenity to urban development. This comprehensive interconnected greenways system will include pedestrian and bikeway paths that provide links and regional connections between residential and employment areas, commercial centers, recreational and open space areas and educational facilities.

By the time the community matures to its ultimate size, 38 acres of open space will be provided per 1,000 residents. This generous amount of preserved open land will make up approximately 24.4% of the community’s land area.

Recently, Olathe adopted a parks and recreation master plan with specific acreage standards for developed parkland. With the projected population growth, new community and neighborhood parks will be needed to meet these standards. Olathe continues to acquire and improve parkland to meet the community’s needs. A number of major parks and natural areas have already been acquired and protected in Olathe’s Future Growth Area through City, County, and State efforts.  Immediate priorities for the parks and recreation system include the need for programmable indoor space.

To achieve cleaner air, better water quality, conserve energy, recycle solid materials, and encourage resource efficient (“green building”) design and construction, clear policy has been set through the Plan.  Specific policies have been included in the Plan that support green initiatives including recycling programs, conservation and cluster development, green building practices, and energy savings solutions for resident and businesses.