Category Archives: Pets

Intro to Green Spaces

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.

On the evening of July 27, 2010, I attended the event at MAX Credit Union where Mayor Todd Strange spoke to our group of young professionals. The theme, “The Future of Montgomery,” was very relevant and timely. I believe that we are at a pivotal point in the development of our city where young professionals like ourselves can have a true impact by positively affecting the ways that downtown Montgomery will be further renewed and revitalized.

As a professional designer interested in landscape architecture and urban design working with 2WR Architects, I see that a large part of the future of Montgomery is related to urban design and architectural retrofit and infill projects as coordinated with the SmartCode. Key to these efforts is the creation of green space in our city.

Why is green space important? Some of the top reasons include:

  • economic development including increased property values and an impetus for revitalization near green areas, business and job creation, tourism management and use, and profits from programmatic entertainment events, etc.
  • psychological liberation from pressures of living and/or working in a growing city
  • more opportunities for physical activities that can reduce obesity and other health issues
  • increased programs for entertainment (water sports, hiking, cycling, etc), education, music, and the arts in and near green space
  • environmental benefits in the areas of air, soil, and water management.

It is exciting to be here in Montgomery at a time when, if combined, our voices can call attention to ways our city can become a better place for us to live and work.

EMERGE Montgomery is made of a phenomenal group of young professionals that have the capability to analyze what is good about other cities that have already made revitalization changes, and lobby for these elements to become a reality in Montgomery. In cities across the south like Chattanooga, Charleston, and Savannah, younger generations are becoming increasingly more interested in the economic and social advantages of mixed use living in urban environments — ways of living that immediately bring up the subjects of green space and the need for a connection to nature for psychological freedom from the stresses of life in the city.

Outdoor entertainment and recreation made available through the creation of green space, added to entertainment venues, make living in our city even more attractive. Typically projects like these come to reality through public/private partnerships that start with buy-in from city entities such as the office of the Mayor and the Planning Department. Here are just a few examples of green space projects:

http://www.railroadpark.org/

http://www.millenniumpark.org/

http://www.rosekennedygreenway.org/

http://www.thebattery.org/

http://www.chattanoogachamber.com/gettoknowus/riverfront.asp/

Through involvement in increasing green and open space projects, we can take even more advantage of Montgomery’s downtown and waterfront area. The Amphitheater has gone a long way in improving the number of programmed events, but part of the advantage to a large green space near downtown is the capability to enjoy nature at any time without the confines of a structured program, all close to our offices and homes. Green and open spaces are more than tree lined streets, though we do want tree lined streets as well! Green and open spaces are places to connect with nature, and specifically, places that we want close to our homes and offices for the sake of a quick escape.

One of the most valuable components of any city is its relationship of green space to the built environment. We’ve seen the impact of green space in places we’ve visited, and maybe even in other places we’ve lived. City planners agree that green space is advantageous, not only for the psychological, environmental, and social rewards, but also for the provable increase in the value of property adjacent to green areas and the other aspects of economic development that are a result of adequate green space creation.

When I think of green space, I’m not thinking just about the aesthetics of natural areas, but also about functionality and programming to include all of the things we love to do on a daily basis. Street trees are a good start, but what about interactive spaces and places that we will look forward to embracing on a regular basis? The beauty of having these larger open green spaces in cities is that we can leave our jobs and walk into a nice park that may be programmed for recreation (walking, cycling, hiking, etc.), musical events or other after-hours events.

We understand that there is a lack of public green space in Downtown Montgomery. Perhaps the reason for this is because there’s not a loud enough voice from residents of this city expressing the need for both small and large dedicated green spaces in downtown. Due to the riverfront improvement that sparked more interest in downtown entertainment venues, the perception of downtown Montgomery not being a great place to hang out is rapidly changing.

However, when I look at our parks downtown, I rarely see anyone using them for recreational or nature focused activities. And even though as kids most of us enjoyed cycling, I rarely see people cycling. My suspicion is because while the downtown parks that we do have are nice, they are either designed for sitting or programmed events. A person living or working downtown must drive to parks designed for more active pursuits. While the change that has occurred thus far is excellent, my hope is that we can continue to create more green space in our city and maximize its utilization by taking input about its design from younger residents.

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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Filed under City services, Fun, Government, Legal Issues, Parks, Pets, Real Estate

Vaughn Road Park

By Kate and Stephen

At 21 acres, Vaughn Road Park isn’t Montgomery’s biggest park (that would be Lagoon Park, at 410 acres by far the largest of the city’s 90 parks), but it’s got to be one of the very nicest. Even in the most sweltering parts of summer, there are tennis courts that seem to be in use just about every day. Our tennis-playing friends tell us that the folks who play there are pretty intense/talented. There are shelters with benches and grills for cooking out and a well-kept half-mile jogging trail that traces the outline of the park. Along the jogging trail are the sad remains of a decayed Parcourse Fitness Trail (invented by the Swiss!) – the rings are still there (and likely to sear your hand right off if you touch them in summer), but the wooden sit-up planks are rickety and full of splinters. Too bad.

Still, the grass is abundant and well-kept — and there are even nice pockets of shade around the park. On the weekends, Vaughn Park is full of people flying kites, boys practicing gymnastics, tiny children carrying around tinier puppies and being chased by family members balancing hamburgers and red plastic cups of sweet tea.

The real star of the park is its playground. For children of a certain age, this is a paradise. Things that spin in crazy ways sit next to elaborate climbing devices. There are trails winding around the side under big overhanging lilac bushes for hiding and conspiring, floors that are rubber and thus less likely to cause injury, and ramps that make the whole park accessible to children of varying levels of mobility.

Volunteer labor largely built this playground. With the of support New Haven-based Boundless Playgrounds, it opened in September of 2003 and has probably delighted tens of thousands of children since then. We had never heard of Boundless Playgrounds until visiting Vaughn Park, but are really impressed by their beautiful vision and ideas – and it’s so cool that one of these state of the art playgrounds is right here in Montgomery and accessible to the general public. The playground makes a trip to Vaughn Park worth it, even if you don’t take a turn getting a push on a swing.

In an era where people view any municipal services as some kind of crazy Socialist tyranny, a visit to a city park can be a nice reminder of the value of community space. We don’t know enough to comment on how well the city funds its parks and recreation department (or how well that department does with the money it is allotted), but we can say for sure that Vaughn Park is one of the crown jewels of the system and our time in Montgomery is laced with many happy memories of trips there. Here’s hoping that the other parks in the city are one day as great as Vaughn.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Filed under City services, Government, Kate and Stephen, Parks, Pets

Happy Paws Dog Walking

Millie Jones and her two Great Danes, Honey and Mister

By Kate and Stephen

“I would, but I’m just so tired when I get home from work.”

“We’ll make up for it when the weather gets better…”

“I want to, but I just don’t have time.”

There are a lot of excuses that people use for not taking their canine companions for vigorous daily walks. Certainly, in a fast-paced world, where many jobs require extended travel and many more require extended (or unpredictable) hours, it makes sense that people are putting in a lot of time into their job(s).

But those excuses don’t really make sense to the faithful friends who stay at home when their owners go to work. And for many of those dogs whose tails wag the hardest when their owners come home, a little bathroom break and a sliver of yard time just don’t provide enough of the exercise that dogs want and need.

Millie Jones saw that a lot of dog owners were feeling bad about putting pet exercise on the back burner. As the owner of two dogs, she knows that dogs simply need to get up, get out, stretch their legs and get the blood flowing.

“I see many people who work a lot,” Jones said. “They might have puppies that need some attention while they’re away all day. Or just an adult dog that needs to be checked on, get a walk, have the food and water topped off.”

A massage therapist on weekends, Jones is working on her masters degree at AUM and launched Happy Paws Dog Walking on New Years Day. It’s primarily a dog walking service, but she also said she’d be willing to check on a cat or other pets while owners are on vacation or out of town.

Growing up in Montgomery, her family always had Collies. And as the owner of two 130-pound Great Danes, Honey and Mister, she’s confident that she can handle anything.

“Animals need companionship and attention. That’s why I got a second dog. Dogs really appreciate it when you pay attention, but there’s also a training element where a lot of owners, especially of younger dogs, might want someone that can see them during the day and reinforce basic commands.”

At rates outlined on her website, Jones will set up an initial meeting with the pet, get to know them, and learn any needed details, such as favorite hiding spots or particular commands. She also carries special “pet sitter” liability insurance.

“We’re always on a leash, and there’s no doubt about it that I’d love to get as many clients in Midtown as possible because it’s the best area in the city for walking dogs. There are wide streets and some sidewalks and a lot of pet owners in these neighborhoods.”

For more information about Happy Paws Dog Walking, contact Millie by phone at 334-202-2426 or by email at millieannjones[at]yahoo.com.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with a dog, a cat, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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Filed under Kate and Stephen, Municipal business, Pets