The organization invited Ed McMahon, a national sustainability expert, to speak to community members about the economic value of greenspace and to start the next phase of dialogue about how the city should move forward with its conservation efforts.
“Communities around metro Atlanta are making aggressive investments in greenspace to build communities, attract business and increase the public balance sheet,” Levetan said. “We need to understand how we can leverage such investments in our city.”
McMahon, who holds the Charles E. Fraser chair on sustainable development at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, told event attendees their challenge is to leave Sandy Springs greater, more beautiful and more prosperous than it was left to them. Sustainability is all about our children and preparing for the future, he said.
Adequate greenspace is one of the quality-of-life features today’s college graduates look to as they settle into cities, start their careers and build their families, McMahon said.
“You can locate a business anywhere in the world today,” he said. “If you cannot differentiate Sandy Springs, Georgia, from any other community, you’ll have no competitive advantage.”
McMahon said every community in America needs a long-range conservation plan.
“Greenspace creates value,” he said. “It reduces the cost of public service and increases the value of real estate. It generates jobs and revenue for businesses and attracts tourists and helps foster economic development and contributes to public health.”
Using examples from towns across the United States, McMahon explained how if natural land is preserved, it reduces cities’ costs for public services like stormwater management and drinking water treatment.
“One acre of asphalt will generate 16 times more runoff than one acre of meadow or forest,” he said.
McMahon said real estate studies have shown homes nearest to greenspace have greater values, and health professionals say walking — and having access to walking trails — positively impacts health.
“The health benefits of parks and trails are immense,” he said.
Also at Thursday’s event, a vase was presented to former Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos in appreciation for the work she did while in office to support the development of parks and greenspace.
For more information: To learn more about the Sandy Springs Conservancy, visit www.sandyspringsconservancy.org.