First, what does an “open space network” mean? A network refers to a system of parts organized to form and function as a coherent whole. We envision an “open space network” for the Tri-Cities urban area and Benton and Franklin Counties that provides a diversity of open space lands offering a wide range of benefits to citizens, a balance to ever-increasing development, and protection of the environment. Natural space and community or regional parks (parks larger than 25 acres) are central elements of this network; working lands and scenic views and vistas are complementary elements; trails serve as connections within the network and to other regional recreation resources.
Open space may consist of: shrub-steppe habitats; mountains and ridges; special geological and topographical features; meadows; wetlands; riparian habitats and washes; lakes; urban green-spaces, parks, sports and play fields; working agricultural and ranch lands; cultural, historical, and archaeological sites; and other valued landscapes and ecosystems. Open spaces can be publicly or privately owned and managed.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. – John Muir
Types of Open Spaces
These are lands intentionally managed for the long-term as natural areas or simply allowed to exist in their natural state. These include riparian corridors along creeks and rivers, wetlands, shrub-steppe areas, open ridges, and hillsides. Such lands include a unique collection of features and resources of regional significance that create a community identity. They define the landscape character of Mid-Columbia and are the foundation of the network.
Urban Greenspace / Park Lands
Neighborhood greenspaces are generally dedicated to active recreational users and contribute substantially to the livability and sense of community in the more densely populated areas. They include public parks, cemeteries, golf courses, ballparks, sports fields, community gardens, and special use parks. Parks and other green spaces create a “green” fabric that defines and enhances neighborhoods. They provide places for passive or active recreation, family and community gatherings, neighborhood interaction, and quiet reflection.
Trails and Corridors (Linear Parks)
Trails are pathways for non-motorized transportation and recreation intended to provide connection, access, and circulation among other types of open space, cities, and rural areas. Trails are often designed to follow natural features (e.g., ridges and rivers), roadways, woody areas, existing rights of way (e.g., abandoned rail, utility corridors, transmission, irrigation, and vacated rights of way), and historic or scenic routes. These linear routes connect points of interest, provide access to recreation sites and destinations, and showcase scenic vistas. Corridors are natural open spaces that connect ecologically important environments, allowing habitat connectivity and facilitating movement of wildlife.
Working lands provide direct economic and/or functional benefit. Such lands may include vineyards, orchards, crop fields, community gardens, and other agricultural settings. Working lands with functional value may include riparian strips, floodplains, and windbreaks.
Lands with Scenic Values
The visual beauty of open spaces helps to define the character of the Mid-Columbia region. Benton and Franklin Counties are defined by their waterways, ridge lines, acres of cultivated fields, orchards, vineyards, and open shrub-steppe lands. These lands, their view sheds and skylines make the Mid-Columbia unique.