Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North American Cities

Academic journal article Electronic Green Journal

Review: MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North American Cities

Article excerpt

Review: MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North American Cities By Donna Erickson Reviewed by Victoria Carchidi Washington, DC, USA Erickson, Donna. MetroGreen: Connecting Open Space in North American Cities. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2006. 333 pp. ISBN 1559638915. US$35.00, softbound. Recycled, acid-free paper.

Now that more than 80% of the world's population lives in cities, and in 2008 the United States crossed the 50% mark, Donna Erickson's exploration of open space in North American cities comes none too soon. Erickson's research comes out of her work on national greenways at the University of Michigan and, through a Fulbright, at the University of British Columbia.

Erickson looks at ten cities in the United States and Canada, paired to illuminate five central aspects of open space function: ecology, recreation, transportation, community, and green infrastructure. The metropolitan areas range in size from the more than 6,000 square miles of Minneapolis-St.Paul to Vancouver at just 1,100 square miles; and in population from Chicago's more than 9 million inhabitants, to Ottawa's just over 1 million. The chosen cities' open-space plans share four factors: 1) they are "a web of linear" areas; 2) they all cross jurisdictional boundaries; 3) they fulfill multiple functions; and 4) they have all gone beyond planning and into implementation (p. 43).

The case-study methodology Erickson uses succeeds in demonstrating the effectiveness of thinking globally and acting locally. "While each story is unique, there are themes that cut across the cities and inform efforts in other places" (p. 41). The method respects each city's historical, geographical, and contemporary specifics. At the same time, it draws out the general lessons that can be learned from each city's responses to sprawl, gridlock, and pollution.

This well-written, compelling work presents a broad canvas, but Erickson finds the telling detail, such as Garden Drive, Vancouver, where a boulder creates a round-about to calm traffic. Brief vignettes stud each chapter to offer windows onto particular projects, such as Hank Aaron Trail which "will nearly complete Charles Whitnall's [1923] vision of linear parks along Milwaukee's river system" (p. …

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