Officials will share ideas on expanding Langley’s park system

“Green blobs and belts.” It’s not a fashion statement, but an idea Langley planners think is tailor-made to creating a swath of open space around the city.

The Langley Parks & Open Commission is hosting a meeting this week to unveil its proposed concept for creating an integrated open space system in Langley. City officials and volunteers have spent the past nine months reviewing Langley’s current parks and open spaces, and have come up with suggestions on ways to meet the goals of Langley’s comprehensive plan on parks and open space.

The comp plan, the document that guides growth in Langley, envisions a city where significant forests are kept standing, and prime farmland and open spaces are preserved throughout the seaside village and its urban-growth area.

The plan, however, doesn’t exactly spell out how the city can create such a scenario.

That’s where “green blobs and belts” come in.

City planner Fred Evander said parks officials have been reviewing six principles that can guide the effort to create an integrated parks and open-space system. Evander briefed the city council on the proposal during a workshop meeting last week.

First, Evander said, the city should look at critical areas as the foundation for Langley’s parks and open-space system. Critical areas are environmentally sensitive such as streams, steep slopes and other natural features that are generally off-limits to development.

Evander said critical areas already form a pre-existing “belt” around much of the city of Langley.

The belt forms a corridor for habitat and open-space purposes, and Evander said the corridor should be as wide as possible.

“We want the lines to be wide, if we can do that,” Evander told council members.

Along the belt are “blobs” — wider areas that include open spaces and large critical areas. The city should work to make sure its blobs are diverse, and include ones made up by farmland, habitat areas, parks or similar pieces, Evander said.

Council members have been receptive to the idea.

“The blobs and belts is a great approach,” said Councilman Robert Gilman.

He noted the city has a goal of devoting 25 percent of its land base to parks and open space. And land identified as critical areas already takes up half that amount, he said.

City officials will explain the blob-and-belt concept in detail at an open house Thursday, May 28 at St. Hubert Catholic Church.

Called “Listening to the Land,” the meeting is from 7 to 9 p.m.

A series of information stations will be set up that show the existing conditions in the city’s park system, with a map and photos.

Current conditions could be better. Langley officials say the system is mostly made up of mini-parks, located on the north side of downtown, and city parks need more maintenance. Some parks with natural areas need restoration, and there is not enough structured facilities for children.

Parks commissioners will also share the results of the recent parks survey that was filled out by more than 200 residents.

Other tables at the open house will have maps and photos of open space throughout the city. There will also be information about potential policies the parks commission has identified that could be used to create more parks and open space in the city.

The ideas range from buying property through funds raised by grants, impact fees, a property-tax levy, land trades and donations. Parks commissioners have also considered conservation easements or partnering with other public agencies or organizations to provide new parks and open space.

Input from this week’s open house will be used by the parks commission as it continues work on updating the parks section of the city’s comp plan.

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