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Great parks and green spaces will help attract new residents to Baltimore

I was very interested to read Paul Farragut's commentary on Baltimore's underappreciated green assets "Baltimore's green necklace," Jan. 27). I agree they should be promoted to help attract tourists, businesses and residents. Our region would benefit from an even broader perspective on its green assets that includes local parks.

Local parks, rivers, trails, fields and open spaces are critical to attracting commerce and to improving the quality of life. We often find, however, that cities are caught in a Catch-22. Older cities like Baltimore that have lost population over time have also lost their tax base. Fewer tax dollars means fewer services and, as a result, the infrastructure is aging and unattractive.

Bringing homeowners and businesses back to cities would increase the tax base that supports this aging infrastructure. But the tricky part is that people and businesses are making their choices about where to live based on the quality of life that a place has to offer — that our parks, trails and streams could provide — if they weren't viewed as unkempt but were instead viewed as high-quality assets.

Our local parks, recreational and open spaces weave their way through the lives of everyday Marylanders. By seeing our local, state and national landscapes as one, we not only provide physical and emotional connections to the natural environment for people, but we also develop a platform for ongoing collaboration among the various stakeholders, public and private, to help bring about the changes Mr. Farragut suggests.

The fact is that great parks really do make great cities. Public-private partnerships can be the key to breaking the cycle of disinvestment in our parks. Our challenge will be how to realign resources to have the biggest impact. In tough economic times, sadly, these very treasures — both far and near — are the first to get cut, but we must prioritize all of our natural resources for the very reasons Mr. Farragut observes: they are part of our identity and are contributors to our quality of life.

I believe we must reconceptualize what we mean when we talk about "The Great Outdoors." We must ensure that all parks are well managed, maintained and marketed, because after all, for many, a city park is our "Great Outdoors."

Jacqueline M. Carrera, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Parks & People Foundation.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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