By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Editor’s note: This is part one in a two part series on connecting Norman through Greenway corridors
Two years after the Greenways Master Plan was completed, the Greenbelt Commission is looking at new strategies for planning and maintaining Norman’s trails and natural corridors.
Greenbelt Commission Chair Mark Nanny recently spoke to city leaders about new ways to integrate Greenbelt development with city projects.
“If we’re going to really have this Greenbelt network in place, we can’t do it by ourselves,” Nanny said. “We have to do it with other city departments.”
Greenways in Norman includes existing parks, golf courses, and nature preserves; the system of trails between parks and other open spaces; and large areas of private land that help beautify the city.
Developing the system of greenways throughout the city involves many departments including parks, public works, city planning and public safety.
“Greenbelts need to become an integral part of the municipal infrastructure,” Nanny said.
Connectivity and using all resources is key. Detention ponds in subdivisions are required by city code but also can be developed for recreational purposes with trails that circumvent them and connect to other trails throughout the city.
“If we can convince
developers to go that extra step and do something unique, it adds to the quality of their development and quality of life,” Nanny said.
The extra time and expense might seem too daunting unless developers know they will get support and assistance from the city’s public works in managing and maintaining the system. That’s why its important for the city to look at greenways in a wholistic manner and to encourage public-private partnerships.
“We’re not talking about mowing — the Home Owners Association can do that — it’s the actual hydrological functioning of the retention pond. That’s where the partnership needs to occur,” Nanny said. “There can be trails, there can be nature, rather than just a fenced-in lagoon.”
Most trails in the city are sidewalks which allow for multimodal use, but there are some special use trails. At Sutton Wilderness, parts of the trail may not be accessible for motorized wheel chairs, for example.
In Saxon Park, the packed granite path was designed for runners but also will be accessible — dogs won’t be allowed on the running path, however, Parks Planner James Briggs said. Instead, a future sidewalk in Saxon Park will allow for dogs.
“When I envision this network of trails I see a portion that is very inclusive for children, folks with disabilities and seniors, but there also could be parts of the trail that are geared for more rugged recreational activities,” Nanny said.
Even sidewalks become a greenbelt when they curve through a park or include landscaping along a city pathway.
“They’re green, they’re full of energy and life,” Nanny said. “It’s not just a sidewalk along the road. When we talk about the network through the urban area, you’re talking more about trails like Legacy Trail.”
Green corridors invite multimodal forms of transportation that function beyond recreation and leisure. In some cases, public art can be incorporated in urban landscapes. In wilder places, nature might reign.
“It’s a living space. You want to go outside and just walk and get fresh air and clear your head,” Nanny said.
Developing Norman’s network of trails also creates connectivity for cyclists and pedestrians of all abilities and can increase access by connecting CART stops.
“Many people who use bicycles for transportation feel OK going on Rock Creek Road,” Nanny said. “I would never ride my bicycle on Rock Creek Road. When I talk about multimodal, I’m talking about something really wide where bicycles can ride.”
The Greenbelt Commission is comprised of Norman residents who volunteer their time to identify suitable parcels of land as green space and make recommendations to the city council about policy. The commission also advocates for green space in the city’s planning process.
The Norman Greenways Master Plan was completed in April 2012 and adopted by the city council that August.
Coming in tomorrow’s Transcript: A modest (green) proposal for Norman.
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