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At its June 5 meeting, Morgantown City Council will discuss the possible acquisition of a contiguous piece of property known as Haymaker Forest; located on the city’s southern boundary.
The purchase of the property would mark the first step of a new city initiative to acquire and manage open, or green, spaces around the city. The new initiative supports the goals laid out by council in its 2017-2019 Strategic Plan and formalizes efforts among council and local community groups in creating a Land Preservation Program for the city. The purpose of the new program is to acquire various green spaces around the city, through purchase or donation, to preserve them and protect them from being developed.
“Green spaces are essential to the physical, mental, and economic health of our community,” said Morgantown City Council Member and Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis.
“They offer vital natural protection against extreme weather events, including floods and heat waves, thereby saving enormous amounts of money. They are places where we can find peaceful refuge from our hectic lives. They are also guarantors of economic stability, drawing dynamic businesses and talented individuals to our community and enhancing property values. It’s vital that we preserve and extend our green spaces.”
If the decision is made to move forward with this program, council will be presented with an ordinance this summer which would create a Land Preservation and Reuse Agency. The Agency would manage the Land Preservation Program and provide guidance to council on land preservation and economic development activities. Like other city boards and commissions, members of the agency would be appointed by council and made up of residents with an expertise in land preservation and economic development. If approved, the agency would be the first of its kind in the state.
The land acquired through this program would be open to the public and some may have pathways for pedestrians, but they would not become “active” parks. Instead, it would become managed public land and kept in its natural state. Land preservation helps with neighborhood stabilization by limiting the potential negative impacts of development on neighborhoods. Most of these spaces have unique or special environmental features that, if protected, can provide a lasting benefit to the community. Protecting certain natural areas from development allows future generations to visit, appreciate, and enjoy them.