Wake wisely invests in open space

This year, Wake County will open its first nature preserve to the public, the long-awaited result of 15 years of buying green space with money approved by voters in a bond referendum. It represents enlightened and forward-thinking policy on the part of public officials who saw a need to buy land before it had all been given over to development in a growing county.

That’s not to say development is all bad. People moving into the county have to have somewhere to live, and responsible development, that which is appropriate in size and blends in with the surrounding property, is welcomed.

But county officials saw that they needed to act to protect places for wildlife and to protect waterways that could have been threatened with runoff and other problems that happen with housing and business development.

The county has bought close to 5,900 acres all over the county and near Zebulon, Wendell and Knightdale. Those communities are increasingly home to people who commute into Raleigh.

The land will be enjoyed as well as preserved, with 500 acres along Buffalo Creek aimed at drawing visitors who want to be close to the outdoors and have a little adventure. There will be a canoe launch and a gravel parking lot. Said Chris Snow, director of parks, recreation and planning for the county: “The voters approved these bonds, so we want them to have access. At the same time, we don’t want to clear cut and have big structures.”

There is comfort in nature – and not just from the sound of the birds or wildflowers and plants in preserves. That comfort comes as well from knowing, in the midst of city traffic and more skyscrapers (to us, if not to New Yorkers), that there are places that are undisturbed and, thanks to planning, will forever be so.

Wake Commissioner Sig Hutchinson, a champion of greenways who has done much to extend them, would like more money spent to have joint projects with towns and cities. He’s right, but other priorities he and other commissioners favor, such as transit and increased school spending, need immediate attention. Still, the push to preserve green and wild space must continue alongside development.