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Parks matter.

Can you imagine what downtown Paducah, Kentucky would look like without the vibrant splashes of green? Did you know that this not only helps with the visual appeal, but also has a strong economic impact as well?

*Check this out:*

* Homes and businesses that are adjacent to naturalistic parks and open spaces are valued at 8-20% higher than comparable properties, with the positive price effect declining to near zero about ½ mile away.

* A study found 7% higher rental rates for commercial offices having high quality landscapes.

* Shoppers claim that they will spend 9% to 12% more for goods and services in central business districts having high quality tree canopy.

* Shoppers indicate that they will travel greater distance and a longer time to visit a district having high quality trees, and spend more time there once they arrive.

This was something that I had started working on in Poteau before I left: Centered on the Town Square, medium sized trees would have provided shade for the park while smaller canopy trees would have provided shade for the sidewalks. Bumpouts would have provided for additional splashes of color, bringing in purples, reds, and yellows to offset the muted historic colors of the buildings.

In Wister, this could be used to great effect behind the buildings across from the library, and along the highway. A large walking path that meanders through a healthy garden could help draw people downtown. By using the concrete area, small events could also be held here.

Heavener has the most opportunity for this. There are six areas where landscaping would have a huge effect:

1.) Between the railroad bed and Main Street; trees and ornamental bushes could be planted to help separate the harshness of the railroad from the downtown district, also helping to create a sound barrier.

2.) Along the sidewalks, with both planters and bumpouts; this would create the main visual interest in downtown Heavener. By using planter/tree combinations, along with benches and “historic” literature, this would create a fun and friendly walkable downtown district.

3.) At the corner of “D” Avenue and 1st Street: This would be a small park that promotes the diversity of Heavener. Set it up as an outdoor “food park” by including shade structures, trees, plants, and historic-looking picnic tables. With all of the food places in the immediate area, this would create a community oriented focal point in the center of Heavener.

4.) Behind the library: Similar to the “food park”, this park would be geared to learning and education. For instance, this would be the idea place for native plants and a butterfly garden; label the plants along with some interesting facts, then tie in the old WPA ditch behind with some history behind the WPA. It would be both sustainable and would create an attraction downtown.

5.) At the corner of “E” Avenue and 1st street: This large green area would provide the perfect place for entertainment in downtown Heavener. Use the existing concrete slab as the basis for a stage and allow the remainder to be used as seating and vendors. During times when there is not an event taking place, this would provide a nice green space for family activities.

6.) The large green space at the corner of “D” and Main: This would be the focal point to bring in outside visitors. Heavener has a rich railroad history and this would be the ideal place to showcase that. It could be named “Railroad Park”; a small ride-able train could be set up and include larger monuments that focus on Heavener’s railroad history. Include a railroad car and other items and it could become a huge destination point.

All of those parks would work together to draw people in, encouraging further retail and commercial development in the downtown district, while at the same time tying in a modern downtown Heavener with the railroad and helping to establish it as a viable city center.

Of course, all of this takes time, money, volunteers, and donations. This is one of the things that I’ve been working towards, but without community backing, it’ll remain just plans on paper. If you want to help out, send us a message.

Fact Sources: Crompton, J.L. “Parks and Economic Development. PAS Report No. 502.”, Journal of the American Institute of Planners, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Valuation of Urban Parks, Landscape and Urban Planning, The Influence of Trees and Landscaping on Rental Rates at Office Buildings, Business District Streetscapes, Trees and Consumer Response. Journal of Forestry)

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