Beginning with Habitat


Open Space Planning

1. Why Plan for Open Space | 2. Importance of Being Pro-Active | 3. What is an Open Space Plan | 4. Open Space Planning Process | 5. Components of an Open Space Plan | 6. Using BwH in Open Space Plan Inventories | 7. Designating Local Focus Areas | 8. Commonly Raised Public Concerns | 9. Example Plans

Components of an Open Space Plan: A Brief Outline

While specific guidelines for the process and components of an open space plan don't exist, the following provides a basic outline of what your committee may want to consider.


The introduction for an open space plan should include:

    Mt. Katahdin
  1. Identification of committee members, contributors, and acknowledgement of professional services used and consultant roles in plan development.
  2. Reference to Comprehensive Plan and other town documents that direct the open space planning effort.
  3. The local definition of open space: what types of features are considered by the plan? Conservation and passive recreation areas only? Ball fields and downtown parks? Scenic Areas? Farmland? Cemeteries?
  4. Benefits of open space to the town- economic implications, social values, environmental functions. Why should we, the citizens of Town X, care?
  5. What is the guiding open space vision for the town? List the goals and objectives that come from this vision.


The methods section of an open space plan should address:

  1. What implementation strategies or town goals identified in the comprehensive plan informed or directed open space plan development, and how were these utilized in plan development?
  2. How was public input solicited and utilized in determining open space plan goals and objectives?
  3. What professional studies or inventory efforts were completed as a result of the effort?
  4. What process was used to distill the various recommendations and findings into a list of actions?

Inventory and Analysis

The inventory and analysis section of an open space plan should include:

  1. A description of existing open space resources in town, the functions they serve, and an analysis of unmet management or maintenance needs.
  2. A description of ecologically significant resource occurrences in town including an assessment of whether adequate protections are in place locally.
  3. An inventory and analysis of other types of features as determined important to the open space vision of your community. These can include:
    • Historical/Cultural resources
    • Scenic resources
    • Parks and active recreational resources
    • Public access to water
    • Farmland
    • Trails


Recommendations for an open space plan should restate the guiding open space vision for the town as included in the introduction and it should breakdown open space plan recommendations by individual goal as identified in the introduction. Under each goal, the recommendations should include identified public priorities, and a description of what needs to be conserved and how. Addressing the "what and how" will require a close examination of existing tools available locally (town committee roles and responsibilities, land trust roles and responsibilities, and current land use ordinance protections). What resources are currently not adequately protected in your local ordinance? What mechanisms are available that could result in more open space conservation? Approaches to consider may include:

  1. Creating a local dedicated fund for open space acquisition
  2. Revising local subdivision ordinances to encourage open space protection of priority open spaces or local focus areas
  3. Increasing local protections for wetlands, streams, and rare feature occurrences
  4. Encouraging voluntary protections by promoting current use tax programs or offering conservation lease options
  5. Implementing a local open space impact fee
  6. Appointing a local conservation commission
  7. Establishing a local trails committee

Implementation Strategy (Action Plan)

As is the case with any successful plan, implementation depends on actions being clearly defined and responsibility for those actions being clearly assigned to the most appropriate party. Implementation strategies defined in the plan should also be prioritized and a time frame should be assigned for accomplishing the specific tasks. For each action recommended by the plan, the reader should be able to answer the question: " who is doing what, and by when? "

The following table is an example of a well crafted action plan. Additional examples can be found in the example plans attached.

Table 1. A portion of an action plan outlined in the Town of Casco Open Space Plan. Action steps identify plan objectives and strategies as well as who is responsible for implementation.





Provide adequate funding

Sponsor an annual article for Town Meeting to increase the amount set aside for land protection from $30,000 to $60,000 annually.


June 2006 On-going


Include a request for donations to the land protection fund with each tax bill.


Oct 2006 On-going

Charter a Conservation Commission

Appoint an interim group to act on these items until a permanent group is formed.


July 2006


Research the chartering of a Conservation Commission as provided by state law.

Interim Group

Sept 2006


Next: Using BwH in Open Space Plan Inventories

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