Transportation embraced as a discussion topic at Bay Area’s 2014 Open Space Conference

Policymakers, parks officials, farmers, and activists met at San Francisco’s Presidio Park last Thursday for the Bay Area Open Space Council’s fifth annual conference. The conference, co-sponsored by MTC, explored ways to make open space more accessible to Bay Area residents—social networks, art projects, and transportation were all on the docket.

Recognizing the link between transportation and conservation is a relatively new trend, says Greenbelt Alliance Program Director Melissa Hippard. She credited Plan Bay Area with helping bridge the two topics, which were once thought of as belonging to separate planets. “We made a pretty good step, I’d say, in terms of having those planets orbit each other.”

These days, “transportation…comes up time and time again,” says Rue Mapp of Outdoor Afro. “We can see open spaces everywhere, no matter where you stand in the Bay Area. But good luck getting there on a weekend, crossing freeways and taking transit.” As Mapp sees it, suitable transportation infrastructure is fundamental for keeping all people connected to the outdoors.

Two guest speakers were asked to talk specifically about bicycles—not as a means of transportation, but as vehicles for preserving open space. Ausin McInery of the National Interscholastic Cycling Association shared the platform with high school senior Sarah Koch, who explained how mountain biking clubs have connected youth to the “Bay Area trail community,” inspiring hundreds of teens to construct and maintain trails. “You’d be surprised how much work can get done when you get forty kids to show up,” said McIntery, encouraging officials to engage youth and families in conservation and transportation planning.