Saving the Green
kudos from conservation groups and homeowners.
"We and the developers both wanted to save every tree we could," Osborne says. Builders didn't just come and flatten the land. Instead, we built the house sideways on a corner lot. We also made sure construction trucks didn't trample the ground. The result is that we're surrounded by trees."
Mature trees boost property values, save heating and cooling costs and make life that much more pleasant. Winterset Park engineers map every tree more than eight inches in diameter, including some over 200 years old. Roads and lots are designed to leave trees intact, and builders who damage trees face fines.
"Our land plan goes with the terrain, instead of against it," says Winterset Park general manager Tom Guthrie, who has built and developed Kansas City property for 25 years. "It's more expensive, but the upside is conservation. And people love the natural look. We've had great success."
Winterset Park owns about 100 homes and plans to build 900 more on 500 acres. On the subdivision's east side, a 13-acre nature park complete with woodchip trails, small waterfalls and wildlife lures those seeking refuge from suburbia. Winterset donated the park's land.
"We've got deer, rabbits, coyote, fox, wild turkey," says Bill Rust, Winterset Nature Area supervisor. "Moving south in the fall, thousands of monarch butterflies and bluebirds stop by for a few days. It's a great place to come bird watch."
In fact, says Rust, Winterset may be the best spot for nature study in the region. And nature lovers can rest assured that here, bird nests and groundhog holes will be the only development going on.
Mention green space to Tim Ripperger, and he immediately chimes in: "Well, St. Joseph has one of the nicest parkway systems in the nation."
Ripperger, regional supervisor of conservation agents for the Conservation Department, is talking about some 1,500 acres of parks, greenways and urban forest in St. Joseph. Scurrying red fox families, waddling ducks, white-tailed deer and Canada geese all live along St. Joseph's lawns of green.
On lazy, warm days, nature lovers roam a four-acre urban fishing retreat stocked by the Conservation Department. Catfish, carp and bass are the catch. Meanwhile, birdwatchers spy everything from finches, sparrows and cardinals to the occasional blue heron.
Among the miles of green, one stretch stands out. A 10-mile lane of grass runs straight through town, connecting the north and south ends. In place since 1927, this greenway earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
"That's our shining glory," says Bill McKinney, director of Parks and Recreation in St. Joseph. Still, like history, conservation marches on. McKinney says the town will soon add a walking trail to existing greenways.
"We're adding trails and planting trees," says McKinney. "To us, progress means always improving what we've got."