Open space means different things to different people. For some it is undeveloped land or shorelines. For some it is parkland for active recreation. For others it means rare or economically valuable lands that need permanent protection. Westchester 2025 recognizes open space in all of these manifestations, including open space as a visual quality – the presence of nature introduced so as to minimize the impact of development. Open space, in the simplest terms, gives character and contrast to developed areas.
Preservation of open spaces
In the first decade of the 20th century, foresighted planners recognized that some open space would have to be preserved in a systematic way. Their vision led to the land acquisition and other techniques that have permanently established the open space nature of Westchester County. The acquisition of the Bronx River Parkway lands shortly after 1900 led to development of the county’s first open space corridor – a scenic travel route linking centers and, eventually, additional County facilities and parks.
Westchester County’s open space system, public and private, vastly enhances the quality of life in the county. One doesn’t have to own open land to feel enriched by the sight of it. That value judgment has deeply influenced development in Westchester. It is reflected in county and municipal policies aimed at maintaining open space character.
From the perspective of Westchester 2025, the open space system is a prevailing force in shaping development. Open space elements provide relief and contrast in urban and suburban settings, define and buffer communities and serve as linkages between major open spaces and concentrated centers. Open spaces also serve as community focal points for activities and assembly, especially in higher density areas. Increasing recognition is given to the role of wide swaths of connected open space in protecting bio-diversity corridors for the welfare and preservation of wildlife.
The Westchester 2025 open space system has two components:
- Definite Elements of Open Space: Definite elements are primarily publicly and privately owned properties intended to be permanently protected from development such as parks, nature preserves and cemeteries.
- Areas of Open Space Character: Some lands make important contributions to open space character but are not permanently protected. These parcels include golf courses, school district campuses, restrictive building coverage office campuses and lands that municipal comprehensive plans identify as significant for their open space, ecological or recreational value. Privately owned lands, although subject to development, can retain their open space function through zoning and design techniques.