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Greenspace is a vital element of a community, providing invaluable ecosystem services and a wealth of social, environmental, and economic benefits. Learn about the status of greenspace in Bloomington and and the City's plans to protect and preserve its open areas.

If you need more information, or have questions regarding any of this material, please contact the Planning Department at 349-3423, or send an e-mail.

Greenspace Documents

Background

Continuing development of land in the City of Bloomington necessitates the careful tracking of local greenspace areas. The City defines greenspace as land greater than one contiguous acre, more than ten feet from any man-made development, and possessing a permeable surface.

Greenspace Trends Figure 1. Greenspace trends in Bloomington, 1993-2003 1

Greenspace provides many essential ecosystem services including water and air filtration, nutrient cycling, preservation of soil, mitigation of floods and droughts, decomposition of wastes, and maintenance of biodiversity, and it also provides beauty and enjoyment for citizens. Additionally, civic and economic benefits are provided through city greenspace. These benefits include increasing tourism, enhancing real estate values, attracting new residents and businesses, preventing youth crime, promoting healthy lifestyles, and reducing environmental stress 2.

The City of Bloomington evaluated the conditions of local greenspace from 1993 to July 2007. Inventories were conducted 1993, 1998, 2002, and 2003 using aerial photography, GIS overlays, building permits, and site visits, cumulating with the publication of "Greenspace Trends in Bloomington, Indiana 1993-2003." Surveying flights in 2005 and 2006 produced new sets of higher-quality aerial images, allowing the Environmental Commission to prepare a highly accurate up-to-date analysis of Blooomington greenspace trends.

Figure 1, above, shows greenspace lost during 1993-1998 in red, 1998-2002 in yellow, 2002-2007 in orange, and areas under construction in pink.

Trends

The inventory surveyed all 16,707 acres of land in the Planning Department's jursidiction (the city Bloomington proper covers 15,001 acres). In 1993, the Bloomington area contained 8,495 acres of greenspace-- approximately 51% of its land at that time. Of this territory, 1,283 acres were held by Indiana University and another 1,079 acres were classified as parks and controlled by the City of Bloomington, leaving the majority (6,132 acres) potentially available for private development, or "in-play."

By 1998, in-play greenspace had been reduced to 5,188 acres. By 2002, the number had diminished further to 4,820 acres. At the beginning of July 2007, only 3,890 acres remained, a decline of over 2,200 acres, or 36.6% of its initial territory.

Greenspace controlled by IU decreased 61.45 acres between 1993 and 2007.

City of Bloomington greenspace holdings increased by 238 acres due to significant acquisitions.

Year Indiana University Bloomington Parks and Recreation Other/Private In-Play
1993 1,283 1,079 6,132 8,494
1998 1,257 1,201 5,188 7,646
2002 1,257 1,297 4,820 7,374
2003 1,254 1,297 4,564 7,115
2005
1,239
1,246
4,152
6,638

2006
1,239
1,306
4,039
6,585

2007
1,222
1,318
3,890
6,429

In the 14 years covered by the study, Bloomington lost 2,065 acres of greenspace, about one quarter of its initial total. Greenspace loss has been most severe in the southern half of town. The southeast quadrant has seen 43.1% of its greenspace disappear since 1993, while the southwest saw a 30% decline. Residential development accounts for the majority of local greenspace loss #1.

Interpretation

Inventory results clearly indicate that in-play greenspace is much more endangered than greenspace held by the City or IU. Non-protected greenspace has disappeared at an average rate of 2.6% per year. At this rate of decline, greenspace outside IU holdings and City parks will mostly disappear in about 28 years. However, the rate of loss seems to be increasing. Between 2002 and 2007, greenspace declined at a rate of 3.7% per year. It should be noted that there is often a lengthy period of time between a project's approval and the start of construction; therefore, greenspace lost in any given year was like approved for development during some year previous #1.

Discussion

Existing protected greenspace within the City's planning jurisdiction has come about through various means. Most city holdings (Lake Griffy, Leonard Springs, Wapahani Park, etc.) were deeded to Parks and Recreation from City of Bloomington Utilities, which has no more property to donate. Additionally, during the H. B Wells administration, IU greatly increased the size of its campus, especially to the north where less development has occurred. The Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve established in 2001, is active in the area of greenspace acquisition and protection.

Some greenspace areas have also been donated or otherwise protected by developers in negotiation with the Planning Department as part of larger development projects. These areas are valuable, but tend to be small, fragmented and prone to degradation through human or biological processes 1.

In 2005, Bloomington acquired 30 acres adjacent to the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve and Cascades Park. Funding for the purchase came from the City Parks Land Acquisition Fund. The greenspace consists of various habitat types, including scrub forest, wooded hillsides, and riparian corridor. Approximately 1,000 feet of Griffy Creek has been protected through the acquisition 3. In the future, this land may offer additional hiking trails and facilitate a connection between Cascades Park and Griffy Lake. Another significant purchase in 2005 was the CSX rail corridor, which was largely funded through federal grants. Through this purchase, the city gained 29 acres of greenspace, which will be transformed into a multiuse trail, known as the B-Line Trail 4. This project aims to convert an abandoned rail line in the heart of downtown Bloomington into a linear urban park and trail for bicyclists and pedestrians 5.

However, significant as these acquisitions may be, the 238 acres gained by Parks and Recreation (a 22.1% increase in holdings) amounts to just over a tenth of the non-protected greenspace lost since 1993.

Path

Due to the rate of greenspace loss, the City of Bloomington should continue to actively acquire greenspace. Planning and consideration for additional large-scale land acquisition is necessary. Past public surveys indicate a willingness to support greenspace acquisition and taxation for funding it in Bloomington 2. At present, the City allocates 15% of its property tax income toward the Parks Land Acquisition Fund, a sum which generally falls in the range of $125,00-135,000. Given public sentiment, the rapidly closing window of opportunity, and much larger City expenditures in many other areas, the Environmental Commission recommends at least $500,000 be dedicated annually toward greenspace acquisition 6. In addition, the EC renews its recommendation for the formation of a Greenspace Taskforce (originally set forth in the document Towards a Comprehensive Greenspace Plan for the City of Bloomington) dedicated to the formation of a long-term, pro-active plan for greenspace protection and acquisition.

References

1. City of Bloomington Environmental Commission. 2007. Greenspace Trends in Bloomington, Indiana 1993-2007.
2. City of Bloomington Environmental Commission. 2003. Towards a Comprehensive Greenspace Plan for the City of Bloomington.

3. City of Bloomington, Office of the Mayor. September, 2005. City Announces Greenspace Acquisition.

4. Dave Williams, City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation. Personal Communication. September 13, 2006.

5. Dave Williams and Maria K. Heslin. October 14, 2005. City of Bloomington Press Release: City Launches Design Work on Greenway Corridor Project.

6. Susan Clark, City of Bloomington Controller's Office. Personal Communication.