|Protecting open space and natural areas has always been a priority for Five Rivers MetroParks. Our protected land totals 15,475 acres made up of both public parks and non-public conservation areas. Since it's beginning in 1963, MetroParks required that at least 80% of its acreage be maintained as natural areas. To maintain this ratio, conservation and maintenance teams worked closely to establish aquisition and management plans. In June 2010, the board approved a new policy that commits us to maintain 90% of our managed land as natural area, and gives guidelines on how to keep this commitment.
Our conservation staff is guided by the following principals in their planning:
- Protect significant natural areas, particularly adjacent to existing MetroParks and river corridors in the Miami Valley.
- Protect and connect significant tracts of forest.
- Link forests and park lands along river corridors.
- Establish buffer areas where needed to maintain open space and protect watersheds.
The benefits of conserving land in its natural state include preserving clean water and air, protecting the diversity of plants and animals and providing beautiful places where people can connect with nature. At least 90 percent of park acreage is required to be maintained in its natural state. Carefully designed Land Stewardship Plans are developed for each tract of land. These plans guide the protection, management and restoration of native plant and animal communities and provide park visitors an opportunity to experience and learn about their natural heritage.
Land protection has proceeded at fairly constant rate during the last half century (see below graph). In the last decade, over 3,400 new acres have been protected, bringing the total protected acreage to over 15,000 acres.
Land use in Montgomery County has changed over the last 50 years, creating a need for approaching land conservation in new ways. Growth areas in the coming decades are projected to be in previously rural areas resulting in the loss of open space and natural habitats. Five Rivers MetroParks is addressing these changes by working to protect land in projected growth areas while it is both available and affordable.
Funding Land Protection
About 50% of the funding for land protection comes from funding; the remaining portion is obtained through state and federal grants. Since 2000, almost half of all land MetroParks has purchased has been obtained using grant money (see chart to the right). The Clean Ohio Fund has supported much of the park land that has been acquired in the last decade. The Clean Ohio program is a state bond fund, initially approved in 2000, and renewed by the voters in 2008. The Fund provides grants to protect high quality natural areas. Grants are awarded annually with Clean Ohio funding 75% of the cost of a purchase and the MetroParks providing 25% of the funds.
Five Rivers MetroParks protects over 3000 acres of land through conservation easements. These are private farms that contain important natural features such as headwater streams, large tracts of forest, or farmland adjacent to an existing MetroPark. A conservation easement is a legal document whereby the property owner retains ownership of the property but the land is not permitted to be developed. Conservation easements allow Five Rivers MetroParks to protect land at a fraction of the cost of buying it. Easements provide opportunities for farm owners to participate in regional conservation efforts and improve their farm by reinvesting funds received from the sale of the easement.
Economic Value of Open Space
There has been considerable research showing that well-maintained open space increases nearby property values. Homes located adjacent to parks sell more quickly, are assessed at higher values, and are more likely to increase in value than homes not near open spaces. In 2005, Ohio State University completed a study on the value of parkland in Montgomery County. The results clearly demonstrated that homes in closer proximity to a Five Rivers MetroPark were valued higher than an equivalent home that was farther from a MetroPark. In addition to benefitting home values, open space also contributes to the economic well-being of a community in direct and indirect ways. Parks generate open-space related revenue and provide jobs. They decrease the cost for storm water runoff management and contribute to good air and water quality. Parks enhance the quality of life in a community making it attractive for economic development. Learn more about the economic value of park land at The Trust for Public Land.