The City of Fort Collins adopted a strategic plan in 2015 that seeks to preserve and enhance the quality of life for residents as the city grows and fills in. Nature in the City, as the program is called, aims to:
- ensure that all residents have easy access to nature,
- conserve natural areas within the city’s boundaries, and
- be good stewards of the land.
In other words, as we sprawl less and in-fill more, we want to make sure that we don’t pave over everything to the extent that some folks no longer have a grassy, tree shaded place to take a break.
The Nature in the City program focuses on connecting parks (both large and small) and open spaces to one another, as well as to neighborhoods, so that every resident lives within a ten minute walk from nature.
While crafting the plan for the program, the City developed “a ten minute walk to nature” map, drawing bubbles around parks and open spaces and finding gaps where residents live outside of those bubbles.
In addition to creating some new priorities for the Parks Department (like making those connections), there were also changes made to the Land Use Code so that new development will fold in some of the Nature in the City goals as well, such as making connections between parks or natural areas, providing park areas if none are nearby, and restoring wetlands.
Fort Collins’ Nature in the City program has been recognized as an exemplary example of innovation in government by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. According to the the Ash Center website:
“These programs demonstrate that there are no prerequisites for doing the good work of governing” said Stephen Goldsmith, director of the Innovations in American Government Program at the Ash Center, “small towns and massive cities, huge federal agencies and local school districts, large budgets or no budgets at all — what makes government work best is the drive to do better, and this group proves that drive can be found anywhere.”
The City has put together a short video explaining more about the Nature in the City program.
Studies have found that access to nature improves health, is good for children, and creates a better quality of life. It’s exciting to live in a city that is taking this information to heart and taking proactive steps to ensure that as we become a dense city, we won’t lose touch with the nature that brought many of us to the area.
Next I’d like to see the City tackle food deserts. Every resident should not only be within a 10 minute walk from nature, but within a 10 minute walk from food as well. If we can change the Land Use Code to include measures that bring nature closer to home, then we can make the changes necessary to bring corner stores back to Fort Collins.