Selling greenspace within a floodplain for a development is poor public policy
One of the strengths of Decatur is the amount of greenspace available for residents to use. The mental and physical health benefits to greenspace are well documented including lower incidences of diabetes and heart disease, and increased longevity in seniors. Decatur is very fortunate to have a greater amount of greenspace per capita than the national average, and having greenspaces where citizens live will allow more people the opportunity to benefit from nature.
Much of the city’s greenspace is adjacent to the Sangamon River, a river on the state’s impaired waters list. It was a surprise to learn that the Decatur Park District was in discussion with Decatur Public Schools for the park district to sell a portion of Lincoln Park for a new school building. Historic Lincoln Park is within a floodplain adjacent to the Sangamon River. Building of a new school will create a large amount of impervious surface increasing the likelihood of surface runoff and pollutants entering the river. Furthermore, in an era of global warming where extreme weather events are more frequent, this is a poor location for any development, let alone a school.
Rather than selling greenspace and reducing citizens’ access to its benefits, the entities that own it should adopt and implement innovative solutions to managing it. For many decades, the Macon County Conservation District has managed hundreds of acres of land with limited resources, and there is an opportunity for entities to work together to enhance our greenspaces and better protect key natural resources at a reduced cost.
Units of local government should strive to be good stewards of the land and water they manage and work cooperatively with other local agencies to protect and enhance our natural resources and improve the quality of life for our residents. They should not sell greenspaces for development that may further degrade the Sangamon River watershed.