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Urban Sprawl in the Great Lakes

6 | Solutions to Sprawl (Part II)

Solutions to sprawl Work with your neighbors
Land-use decisions are best made when looking at the entire region, rather than just a small portion of it. Development not only affects your community, but those to the north, south, east, and west of you. Communities may be created within political boundaries, but ecosystems, rivers, wildlife habitats, and the air you breathe don't follow these boundaries, so by including other communities in planning development, more responsible and efficient growth can result.

The Great Lakes region provides some examples of regional cooperation. The First Suburbs Consortium of Northeastern Ohio is a group of 10 Cleveland suburbs who decided that working together, instead of separately, would provide better solutions to Cleveland's growth and sprawl problems. The Consortium has brought together more than 200 city and state leaders in the fight against sprawl, and Columbus, Dayton, and Toledo now all have First Suburbs organizations as well. The Grand Valley Metro Council is another good example of regional cooperation, bringing together over 30 townships in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area in order to promote anti-sprawl land-use issues. And the Twin Cities Metropolitan Council includes more than 180 townships across seven counties, and helps the city plan and manage the increasing population and growing economies of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Minneapolis-St. Paul. Click to see larger image.

A new way of thinking
How can a city promote economic growth while preserving its open spaces and increasing the quality of life for its residents? This question has prompted new ways of thinking about growth and development, such as new urbanism and smart growth. New urbanism seeks to redesign towns so that they have a central downtown area, walkable neighborhoods, and public meeting spaces, while smart growth addresses these issues by redirecting public spending away from projects and programs that promote sprawl and toward those that revitalize cities and towns. Both ideas have critics and obstacles, and have yet to be fully implemented into the Great Lakes region. But discussions have begun in this region, and organizations, such as the Michigan Land Use Institute, are already educating the residents and governments about these new ideas.

Yellow Bike Coalition. Click to see larger image. Creating better-planned communities would also promote more alternative means of transportation, such as bus, train, bike, or foot. By providing means of safe, reliable, and efficient alternatives to car transportation, cities can provide a better atmosphere in which to live, while also protecting the environment. Minneapolis is in the first stages of providing light rail transportation, and the city also has a program that promotes bicycle transit, called the Yellow Bike Coalition. Bikes are kept at local businesses and other public places, and anyone can check them out, like you would a library book, for the day and longer periods of time.

Graphics: Image of the Twin Cities--St. Paul is in the left foreground and Minneapolis is in the middle far background. (photo courtesy of Metropolitan Council).


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