How Close Do You Live to Protected Open Space?

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All of the green on this detailed map is preserved open space farmland, the yellow, orange, and violet areas are protected by the Suffield Land Conservancy and other private groups. A good deal more is open space now, but without protection against development. The red is identified as open space, and much of it is, but airport land and the prison are included in the red, as well.

Suffield is truly fortunate to have such a great quantity of open space set aside for public use. Likewise, the town has been active in the preservation of farmland, making Suffield second in the state in terms of preserved farm acreage. While preserved farms are not generally open to the public, they help to contribute to the overall open space and agricultural character of Suffield. The amount of open space in town did not happen by accident. Current and former town leaders, residents and landowners have recognized the benefits of open space, properly planned for its preservation, and provided the necessary resources to help make it happen.

A year ago, I wrote an article for the Observer about farmland and open space preservation discussing the amount of funding Suffield has spent on land preservation initiatives, number of acres preserved, and projects in the pipeline. This time around, I want the readers to ask themselves, “How close do I live to protected open space?” The map submitted with this article may help answer this question. My reason for asking is twofold; first, to bring awareness of all of the open space in town that residents might not know exists. Second, to describe an important principle related to planning for healthy and active communities, which I believe is particularly appropriate as we endure the current pandemic. If you are anything like me, you want to get out of the house in a socially distant way, especially as we head into the spring season.

The American Planning Association published a report entitled “Planning for Active Communities” in 2006. Although a bit dated, the information contained in the report remains applicable in the planning world today and includes a number of guiding principles for active communities. To cherry pick one of the guiding principles from the report, an active community contains parks, recreation areas, trails, and open spaces that are available to the public. While this may seem obvious, are you aware of the many open space and recreation areas available in town?

Most residents are probably familiar with Sunrise Park and Hilltop Farm. However, did you know about the 35-acre MacKinnon open space property on Mapleton Avenue? How about the over 200 acres of town open space located in the area between Wisteria Lane and East Street? In addition, the Suffield Land Conservancy owns hundreds of acres of open space that are available for public use. There are a number of other options in town to get out and take a walk in the woods and I encourage you to do so.

With a goal to preserve a minimum of 55 percent of its residentially zoned land as protected open space, the town continues to work on projects in support of this objective.

 Suffield has over 4,000 acres of protected open space and farmland. Do you know how close you live to it?

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