Friday, October 15, 2010

A Great American Neighborhood

Shocked and delighted. That’s the way I felt when I saw in the morning news that my neighborhood in north Florida has been selected as one of ten Great Neighborhoods in America by the American Planning Association. Wow, this is incredible!
What makes my ‘hood a Great Neighborhood? A lot of the things Sierra Club thinks are important for a liveable community are the same qualities that guide the selection for the APA.
  • A definite sense of boundary. It’s a distinct place rather than sprawling across the landscape. 
  • Accommodates multi-modal transportation. You don’t need a car to get around. Streets are people friendly – sidewalks, landscaping, traffic calming, bike lanes.
  • Mixed use development promoting higher density and more transit. Diverse populations which include economic, ethnic, social diversity; that's us.
  • Protects air and water quality and enhancing green infrastructure. Green spaces, tree canopy, stormwater management all are keeping the neighborhood safe and sustainable.
We plan for our future. Our neighborhood association with the help of our councilman and consultant planners created a zoning overlay to protect our specialness as we experience change. The process took almost a year but it was done with full community involvement as hundreds of homeowners, apartment dwellers, and businesses took part.
The St. Johns River forms one of our neighborhood boundaries. We have many urban parks and tree lined streets. This neighborhood is doing something to assure sustainability of those “green assets”. We want to maintain public access to our great riverfront, keep lawn fertilizer and sewage out of the water, maintain and replenish our tree canopy, protect our parks from being sliced and diced by highways.

We planned and now we are working on creating public appreciation; replanting damaged or aging trees, maintaining our parks with green management practices, asking for alternative transportation options from FDOT, celebrating our success with festivals and street markets featuring local produce and local crafts.

Last night a community church hosted a picnic supper for the entire neighborhood in order to celebrate the arrival of thousands of chimney swifts that roost in the old brick chimney on their historic church. Several hundred folks showed up, ate hot dogs and as the evening sky darkened watched two or three birds swell to thousands of swifts circling the chimney waiting until the moment when they all dived in for the night. We all Ooohed as the birds disappeared seeming to be vacuumed out of the sky by the tall chimney. My neighbor awed by the spectacle, tears in her eyes said, “Is this a great neighborhood or what?” Yeah, it really is.

More about this neighborhood
2010's Great Places in America