What is Wake County's Consolidated Open Space Program?
Wake County's Open Space Program, the first of its kind in North Carolina, is working in partnership with local NGOs, municipalities and state/federal agencies to protect remaining open space in the county. The program's overarching objective is to protect 30% of Wake County’s land area (or roughly 165,000 acres) as permanent open space.
The Open Space Program began in earnest when, in 2000, 78% of Wake County voters authorized an open space bond for $15 million. Due to skyrocketing land costs, voters approved a second bond for $26 million in 2004.
Wake County first used this funding to support each of the County's municipalities in creating their own open space plans. Wake County then weaved together a regional open space vision by combining key attributes from individual municipal plans with County-level priorities to create an integrated, countywide Consolidated Open Space Plan (COSP)
Open Space staff work to implement the recommendations of the COSP and protect key parcels of land through leveraging County bond monies and purchasing land and conservation easements in targeted conservation areas.
The Open Space Program's actions are directed by two advisory committees: OSAPAC (Open Space and Parks Advisory Committee) and LARC (Land Acquisition Review Committee). OSAPAC is a citizen-appointed committee, and LARC is a board composed of management-level County staff.
Why does Wake County need an Open Space Program?
Wake County is experiencing conversion of natural lands to suburbia at a phenomenal rate. In 2005, the County added 24,087 people to its population and converted an estimated 10,000 acres of land to suburban development. Growth rates are projected to continue over the next several years, and the County is expected to reach a population of 1 million by 2015.
To balance this extraordinary pressure on the natural environment and ensure future generations will have access to greenspace and good environmental quality, Wake County government has recognized the urgent need to protect remaining natural land.
Protecting open space in Wake County will generate an interconnected system of greenspaces that will attract homeowners and businesses, prevent economic losses from floods and costly pollution, support a clean water supply, and produce fresh air, fertile soils and biologically diverse landscapes. The Open Space Program’s investment in the preservation of working lands (farms and forests) will also help support a vibrant agricultural economy that has historically defined much of the County’s sense of place.