Green Spaces 2: Cypress Pond

By Andrew Cole-Tyson

Note: This piece was originally published in an e-mail sent out to members of a young professionals group called Emerge Montgomery. We reprint it here with Mr. Cole-Tyson’s permission. Part 1 can be seen here.

For almost two years now, 2WR (the company where I’m employed) has been working in partnership with the City of Montgomery and The Montgomery Tree Committee to promote a project that will attempt to address the lack of open and green space in downtown Montgomery. The Cypress Pond Park and Greenway is a major component of the promotion of economic development through the creation of green space. We hope that this project will be the first of a series of spaces that will be made for public use in downtown.

These may be “pocket parks” to supplement future urban housing, or places embedded in the urban building context, that promote various public events and recreation during the lunch hours and after work. The goal of this project (including Cypress Pond Park and Greenway) is to make Montgomery a place where people want stay. It will help create the economic base to support new jobs, industry and increased property value.

Economic and Quality of Life Impact of the Park

In many cities, property values triple and quadruple because of their proximity to green space. For example, studies of property values in Boulder, CO indicate an average of $4.20 more per square foot for each foot a property becomes closer than 3200 feet from a green belt. Often, urban parks and greenways are designed to re-vision historic transportation infrastructures and waterfronts that have been abandoned by the public of their cities. Completing these projects generates an immediate interest in redeveloping sites with building structures for public and private uses adjacent to these greenways. Health, recreation, and opportunities to engage nature become catalysts for many valuable real estate development projects supporting enhanced quality of life.

In addition to increasing economic development and enhancing the quality of life, green space creates an opportunity to address an extremely disturbing statistic that rates Montgomery at the top of the charts for the most obese cities in the country. Promoting green space, recreation, and sustainable transportation is one way of combating this statistic, a problem that begins to be resolved by having all of our daily needs in close proximity to each other to promote a walking, cycling, moving, living city.

Today’s Vision of the Park and Greenway

Cypress Pond Park and Greenway is envisioned as an open green space that will provide the outlets to address the issues associated with city living: the need for psychological connection with nature, the need for a place for physical activity and gatherings and the need for a place that will by its very design draw people to our city. This project will:

  • Capitalize on the natural systems at work in downtown Montgomery and provide an opportunity for humans to embrace nature on a daily basis, conveniently near offices and homes;
  • Spur many real estate development projects, increasing the housing density in downtown Montgomery and eventually providing the appropriate density to attract a grocery store;
  • Allow abandoned industrial properties to be renewed and redesigned into spaces and places that meet the needs of the current generations inhabiting downtown Montgomery.
  • Promote a holistic lifestyle not adapted and programmed around the car. Instead of living in downtown and having to drive several miles to get to the closest park or recreation center, you should be able to walk to this greenway from your residence or office in downtown and safely exercise while enjoying nature.

This project, as well as many others in downtown, takes a proactive approach toward a healthy lifestyle change that is very attractive to people of all ages. Here are some details about this exciting project:

A Brief Summary of Cypress Pond Park and Greenway

Cypress Pond Park is composed of the 260-acre Cypress Pond area, which flows through Cypress Creek into the Alabama River at a point known as Cypress Inlet immediately upriver from the city’s Riverwalk. It encompasses (1) Cypress Inlet on the Alabama River, (2) Cypress Creek, which runs approximately 1.5 miles up to the (3) Cypress Pond Area, approximately 260 acres east of Lower Wetumpka Road and north of Oakwood Cemetery. The park site is unusual in that it is a large tract of undeveloped land located in close proximity to a downtown business district. The location abounds with landscape diversity, providing scenic views of the City of Montgomery from high bluffs that overlook slopes with three ancient ravines carved by the forces of nature. The landscape also features beautiful swampland in the lower regions of the park site.

Diversity exists not only in the landscape, but also in the plants and animals living in the area. To date, more than 100 species of birds, 60 species of trees, and 30 flowering plants, as well as numerous ferns, vines, mushrooms, and, of course, insects have been identified in Cypress Pond Park. Once complete, Cypress Pond Park will provide Montgomery with an outdoor environmental education facility and new outdoor recreational opportunities while promoting the conservation and preservation of natural resources. The park will also support the continued economic revitalization of downtown Montgomery by promoting eco-tourism, job creation and business development.

To date, a feasibility study funded by the Kodak Foundation and the City of Montgomery has been completed. $100,000 has been allocated to the City by the U. S. Congress to be administered by the federal Corp of Engineers. The City also received a $20,000 donation from a local foundation in early 2010.

To learn more, visit www.cypresspondpark.org

What We Need From You…

To date we have had input from many designers; locally, nationally, and internationally, as well as engineers, scientists, non-profits, city, state, and federal entities. The design of this project is coming to life with lots of input from the city and residents. However this design cannot become reality without a good marketing campaign and fundraising strategy and voice and active involvement of young professionals to truly support this effort. As the next generation of Montgomery, we will largely benefit from a project of this magnitude.

Our goal now is to increase the number of young professionals who are passionate about promoting this project with their marketing, fundraising, communications, visionary and networking talents. To date, all work associated with this project has been volunteer. However, we are slowly developing a fund for professional services. In the near future we’ll develop a 501c(3) for this project, as well as a “friends group” as a continued effort to market this project to our city.

We have occasional tours of the park and will increase the frequency of these tours as the demand increases. To get involved, contact me at 2WR Architects at 334.263.6400 or acole-tyson@2wrinc.com.  If you are specifically interested in communications, fundraising or marketing activities, or if you have website design capabilities, please feel free to contact Katie Rose at katie1rose@yahoo.com or 334.399.4681. I truly look forward to getting you plugged in where your talents can best be expressed.

Andrew Cole-Tyson is a landscape architect at 2WR, a 40-person architectural firm with offices in the historic Anderson Block Building on Commerce Street in downtown Montgomery, and in Columbus, GA. He views the landscape as an enormous canvas for experimentation and expression of ideas. A naturalist, he is particularly interested in relationships of people to nature and public park spaces. His work includes environmental and site analysis, site and community master planning, horticultural and planting design, irrigation design, graphic design, horticultural consulting and landscape architectural construction document production.

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