ROCKWALL, TX (Jan. 29, 2015) Rockwall County residents were given the opportunity to have their say in what becomes of the county’s open and undeveloped land as it undergoes significant growth in the coming years. A special public meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 22, put together by the Rockwall County Open Space Alliance (RCOSA).
The event featured presentations from guest speakers Kevin Shepherd, cofounder of VERDUNITY, Inc. and Wallace Roberts & Todd, LLC (WRT) Principal Stephen Hammond and offered those in attendance the chance to provide their input regarding the RCOSA’s Open Space Master Plan by answering poll questions and speaking with the various individuals behind the process.
One such poll question asked those in attendance what they believed was the most important open space asset in the county, to which a majority replied Lake Ray Hubbard. Water quality, according to Shepherd, will play a huge role in determining how the county should proceed with the development of its open space and the protection of the 154 miles of creeks and streams within the county.
“Water quality isn’t something you can attack, that you can fix at the city level,” Shepherd said. “It’s something that you address at what we call a watershed level. The entire watershed that flows into these water bodies, you have to look at the development all the way through it and how that water’s running through it, and that’s something that requires collaboration between and across city lines.”
Hammond addressed perhaps the most important question regarding what lies in store for the county’s open space: How do we protect that open space and sustain growth while maintaining the things that people residing in the county love about their communities?
While there’s no easy answer, the good news is that the county has several options at its disposal, including the notion of parks without borders.
“The idea is that parks and open space are not just about recreation that occurs within the boundaries of a park or recreational facilities within a park,” Hammond said. “It’s being shown that parks have a great influence on what happens around them. They significantly contribute to the community’s character and values.”
According to Hammond, studies have shown that parks raise the value of the land around them by as much as 15 to 20 percent, a win-win for both the communities and the developers.
Hammond also said that the open space can be used as a learning environment where children and adults can learn about unique formations in the land, such as the mysterious rock wall of Rockwall.
“It helps to build a sense of pride in your environment and build stewardship in the younger generation so that as you continue on in the future you have a strong community that says we’re committed to Rockwall County and to the quality of the environment here, and we want to preserve that,” Hammond said.
However the plan moves forward and whatever’s in store for the future of Rockwall County’s open space, Shepherd agrees that there’s definitely no shortage of opportunity available to the county.
“We have a lot of opportunities out here in Rockwall County,” Shepherd said. “We have a lot of great things we want to protect, and a lot that we want to capture.”
Founded in 2011, VERDUNITY is a civil engineering, urban design and community consulting firm focused on providing planning and design services to help make healthy, economically sustainable communities. WRT was established in 1963 and is a national collaborative practice dedicated to improving the quality of the environment in the planning and design of buildings, landscapes, cities and regions across the country.
The two factions teamed together with the Open Space Alliance Executive Committee and the Open Space Master Plan Steering Committee, made up of a diverse group of volunteer citizens within the community who share a passion for improving and protecting the open space in Rockwall County.
To learn more about the Open Space Master Plan and the RCOSA, visit rockwallosa.org/.
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News staff writer and reporter.
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