Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Janet Clarke

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Janet Clarke

Article excerpt

ADVOCACY

A local elected offi cial pushes competing park supporters to fi nd common ground

''Visitors are impressed by all the open space we have here," says Janet Clarke, vice chair of the Loudoun County (Virginia) Board of Supervisors. "But they don't always realize that most of what they are seeing is privately owned."

Clarke watched the formerly rural, Washington, D.C. exurban county nearly double in population, from 169,000 in 2000 to 312,000 in 2010. The mother of three and longtime community activist decided to run for offi ce in 2011 partly because of her concerns about land-use and planning challenges in her county. She now sits on the Transportation and Land Use Committee-and she describes a situation where the relative scarcity of public lands is pitting environmentally minded passive-use park proponents against those clamoring for more playing fi elds and active-use parkland. This is an understandable, Clarke says, since the explosive growth in the county has simultaneously encroached on natural habitats while creating a staggering 200-plus defi cit of playing fi elds.

"I don't think it's quite accurate to say we're trying for 'win-win solutions' here," she says. "We'll have to have compromises on both sides....But, ideally, the passive- use and active-use camps can work together, since both sides recognize the need for more public land." Clarke sees her role as one of proposing creative solutions (such as strategic investment in turf fi elds in some locations and an openspace land program incentivizing private landowners to allow public uses of their land), and challenging land acquisition plans that fail to offer possibilities for combined use. …

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