The Town of Bridgewater is initiating a planning process to develop an Open Space Network Plan (OSNP), and we want you to help us!
Town Council has recently created an Open Space Plan Advisory Committee (OSPAC) to work with Town staff to develop an Open Space Network Plan for the Town. We are looking for three residents of Bridgewater and four representatives of stakeholder organizations who are passionate about their community, healthy living and open space to sit on our Committee!
OSPAC meetings will take place monthly, on Friday afternoons between 1:00 PM and 2:00 PM, and will be open to the public.
What is “open space”?
“Open space” is not just parks! Our working definition of open space is “any public or private space not built upon and open to the sky.” Using this definition as a starting point will allow the planning process to include sidewalks, trails, streets, surface parking lots, plazas, parks, outdoor recreation facilities, brooks and the LaHave River as open spaces.
The Role of Open Space in the Community
In addition to recreational and active transportation uses, public open space is critical for providing opportunities for users to socialize, both actively and passively. Open spaces that encourage sociability are most successful at drawing a wide range of users. As it turns out, the most attractive thing about an open space is other people, even if the main purpose of the space is recreation or physical activity.
Insufficient access to social activity can easily lead to loneliness and isolation, conditions not normally considered illness but that can have health consequences similar to those associated with high blood pressure, smoking and lack of exercise. Sociable open spaces that are attractive to a wide variety of users are safer, and help build so-called “social capital” by making the community more resistant to crime and other social problems, by helping residents develop an attachment to their community, and by building community pride. Residents of towns with attractive, welcoming public spaces are happier.
The Case for an Open Space Network Plan
The Town does not have a plan for how to allocate resources to the existing and future assets, even though there are at least three significant new open space projects (the new riverfront open space on King Street, Generations Active Park and Grinders Square) in development.
We also have not heard from our community. What do our residents value most about our open spaces? What are our frustrations? Are there parts of our community that are underserved for open space? Do all of our neighbourhoods have equitable access to the open spaces that they need?
Open space can mean many different things to different people – a place to play organized sports or a pick-up game of soccer, a place to enjoy an exciting play structure or a place to sit and watch the water. Some people use open spaces for exercise, but many more use them to socialize, a critical function for a healthy community. How can we support these different uses? How do we make sure no one feels squeezed out? As a community, we need to have these conversations. We need to understand our collective vision and how we get there from where we are.