On February 21st (Wednesday) City Council will consider a plan to craft a comprehensive strategy for Milton’s 400+ acres of greenspace. When I read about this, all manner of alarm bells began sounding and warning lights began blinking.
To begin this post, I am going to make a prediction:
The 89-acre property at the corner of Bethany Road and Providence Road will never be opened to the public or else will be given the lowest priority (i.e., it will be many years before it is opened to the public).
I hope I am wrong in making this prediction or perhaps through my warnings, I can influence City Council’s decision-making in favor of Milton’s citizens . . . but don’t hold your breath.
So that brings us to the question of why I am particularly skeptical/suspicious about this specific property? What is underlying my prediction? Answer: The property at Bethany and Providence borders Council Member Carol Cookerly’s estate. I find it odd that this property has not been already opened to the public. I say this because it was purchased over 3 ½ years ago for $5.79M. It is the most expensive greenspace property purchased by the City (representing nearly 30% of the greenspace monies that have been spent). (The land is mostly swamp or steeply sloped . . . as with other purchased properties, it is my firm belief that the City overpaid for this property.) Since its purchase, nothing seems to have been done to ready the property for public use. This strikes me as odd given the close proximity of the property to the more heavily populated areas of Milton; it is ideally situated between the Highway 9/Windward Parkway area and Crabapple. And given that the parcel borders Ms. Cookerly’s property, I would have thought the City would be keen to expedite public access to demonstrate no favoritism is being shown to Ms. Cookerly.
I urge Milton’s citizens to deeply engage in this green space planning process. Frankly, given my extensive past experience with the City, I am skeptical about the motives behind this new plan. Often in Milton, process is cynically used to avoid/delay decision-making or to provide cover for decisions that do not reflect citizen sentiment. Just because citizens are given opportunities for input does not mean that such input is actually used or even considered. Frankly, I am not sure why more citizen input is even needed. Myriad surveys, focus groups, etc. have already been conducted over many years . . . the City should know what citizens want, which is why I think this plan is just more delay and obfuscation by the City . . . just more kicking the can down the road.
At tomorrow night’s City Council meeting, I hope that Council will go on record and firmly establish some aggressive and definitive principles for staff to follow:
- ALL greenspace land will be expeditiously opened to the public. Every square inch.
- All currently non-public greenspace properties will be simultaneously (rather than sequentially) made ready for public use.
- To expedite access, properties will be improved to a minimal standard—e.g., basic trails cut and gravel parking laid down—with the goal of additional improvement over time.
- All properties should be made available to the public within a reasonable time period (e.g., 18 months). Enough with the foot-dragging.
- Top priority will be given to providing public access to the property at Bethany and Providence.
My hope is that Council Member Cookerly take the lead in tomorrow’s discussion and propose adoption of the above principles. Furthermore, it would be reassuring to citizens if Ms. Cookerly were to go on record supporting expeditiously providing public access to the property at Bethany and Providence.
Advocating For Expeditious Public Access to Greenspace in Milton,