We rather like the Manhattan conjured up Wednesday by residents who participated in a long-range planning exercise. What’s not to like about more green space, better bicycle access and clean air?
Those are just three of the items that participants mentioned as important in conjunction with Manhattan Area 2035 — an update to the Manhattan Urban Area Comprehensive Plan. Among others were historic preservation, regional planning, citywide rather than downtown development and protecting the natural environment
As Darcie White, a director with Clarion Associates who is the project’s lead consultant, observed, Manhattan has changed considerably since the urban area plan was last updated in 2003. Growth, as she noted, has been “significant,” and while it’s reflected in many ways, including new residential subdivisions, perhaps the most conspicuous change has been the vast redevelopment of downtown. Indeed, it continues today.
And if the city is to have almost 72,000 people and Kansas State University an enrollment of almost 25,000 students in 2035, as Clarion Associates projects, more housing and businesses and research and manufacturing development are inevitable. If the plan is sound and officials and citizens stray from it only when doing so improves on the plan itself, Manhattan can be every bit as livable in 20 years as it is today.
We would do well in planning for that growth not to overlook the importance of more green space, better bicycle access and clean air. They are essential elements to a community’s quality of life.
Our city has generally been prudent about green space, and boasts multidimensional community parks as well as smaller neighborhood parks, though demand has swamped athletic facilities. Similarly, our air quality, with the possible exception of a couple weeks in April when fires rejuvenate vital grasslands, is good.
But our community is not yet bicycle friendly, despite signs around town announcing it or reminding motorists to share the road. Among important, though expensive, improvements would be more dedicated bike lanes from one corner of the city to another.
It might not be practical to redesign Claflin Road, for example, to safely accommodate the growing number of bicyclists who use it, often to get to and from campus, but allowing space for bicyclists in future street projects would be a good, long-term investment.
Manhattan Area 2035 could be ready for adoption early next year. We encourage residents to get involved and have a say in how this city will look and function in 20 years.