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MetroGreen is a visionary, large-scale system of interconnected landscape corridors that will span 1,144 miles, link city to countryside, suburb to urban center, and connect residents to nature. To achieve the vision articulated by the ASLA Prairie Gateway Chapter's 1991 plan, MetroGreen will become more than a system of trails and bike paths. MetroGreen will seek to conserve the unique native landscapes of the Kansas City region, and will help resolve the relationship between land development and land stewardship, defining a greenprint for the future.

The concept of MetroGreen is simple:

  • Link together corridors of land to the landscapes and destinations that people value.
  • Where appropriate, build pathways that people can travel by foot, bicycle, rollerblade or horseback.
  • Make the corridors wide enough so that they will help to protect water courses, preserve historic landscapes and beautify area roadways.

Implementation of MetroGreen will be complex. Completion of the system as envisioned in the Action Plan will require a coordinated effort by the local governments, private interests and residents of the Kansas City region.

Protecting land

One of the continuing challenges for the Kansas City region is balancing future growth and land development with conservation of land that serves to attract people to the area. MetroGreen can be used as a tool to achieve this balance. This plan strongly recommends that all of the region's counties consider adopting new land development principles and practices that promote conservation. Possible methods include:

  • Educating agency and development organizations about the need for conservation
  • Supporting local land trust organizations
  • Utilizing state and federal programs that encourage the donation of land
  • Updating development regulations

The primary effort should be to foster growth that results in new development patterns that are walkable, bikeable and support a diversity of land uses.

Conservation Subdivision Design Concept
Conservation Subdivision Design Concept

One land development practice that counties and municipalities could consider is the concept of Conservation Subdivision Design (CSD). Using CSD, the yield of a particular property slated for development would be similar to that of a conventional subdivision design. However, instead of parceling out the land into private lots, conservation subdivision design arranges houses and buildings on a site in ways that allow natural landscape features to remain open, undeveloped and in common ownership.

Additionally, counties and municipalities should encourage growth near existing urban centers, towns and villages instead of building in undeveloped natural areas. Building traditional neighborhoods, office parks, shopping centers and schools in close proximity to built landscapes will help to protect the rural character of the Kansas City region.

Protecting water quality

Riparian Buffer Concept
Riparian Buffer Concept

One of the most important objectives of the MetroGreen plan is the protection of regional waterways, which can be achieved by establishing riparian buffers along area streams. National studies have shown that riparian buffers can reduce flooding, protect stream health, stabilize streambanks, support fish and wildlife, maintain proper stream temperature, and promote ecological functions necessary to naturally clean water of pollutants. This strategy can be implemented immediately by local governments.

The Action Plan recommends that local governments establish a "variable width" riparian buffer for all streams. The exact width for buffers will be determined by each local government's stormwater management agency. MARC is working in partnership with local governments to determine criteria that will be used to define application of the variable width buffer strategy.

Johnson County, Kansas, is in the process of adopting stream protection guidelines and may serve as a model for other counties in the region. Once in place, the variable width buffer strategy has the potential to protect an estimated 120,000 acres of riparian lands along 4,000 stream miles throughout the region. The protection strategy will ensure good water quality in the Kansas City region for many years to come.

Connecting people to the land

Hubs and Spokes GraphicConnections are the most tangible product of MetroGreen. The physical framework of MetroGreen is based on a popular national concept known as "Hubs and Spokes." In this model, residential, commercial and business spaces are linked to parks, preserves and open spaces via MetroGreen corridors. For residents, this will mean improved access to the outdoors for recreation, alternative transportation, and participation in activities that can improve health, fitness and quality of life.

Health and fitness are among the top concerns in the Kansas City region. One of the principal goals of the MetroGreen system is to provide a trail within two miles of 90 percent of the region's current population. The goal of two miles was chosen because it is the average distance that Americans are willing to bicycle to a destination. Comparatively, a half-mile is the average distance Americans will choose to walk.

MetroGreen trails will be aligned along roadways with ample rights-of-way that can accommodate bicycle/pedestrian trails along the edges of streams or within existing utility or railroad rights-of-way. The trail corridors identified in this plan create a regional trail system that should accommodate bicycles, joggers and pedestrians. Additional features such as nature trails or trails with alternative surfaces for horseback riding, jogging or mountain biking are considered secondary in the overall trail plans. In addition to the MetroGreen corridors, local trails provide connections to the regional system or serve a particular destination or population.