Breaking News from America's Progressive Community...
9, 1998 12:25 PM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sierra Club
Sam Parry 202/675-7907
|Sierra Club Ranks 30 Most Sprawling Cities In America: The Consequences of Suburban Sprawl Felt From Coast to Coast; Atlanta, St. Louis, Washington, Cincinnati, Kansas City -- Top Five Sprawling Cities|
- September 9 - - The Sierra Club today defined suburban sprawl as the fastest growing
threat to America's environment in a national report that ranks the 30 most sprawling
cities. The report, entitled "The Dark Side of the American Dream: The Costs and
Consequences of Suburban Sprawl," is part of Sierra Club's national campaign to
educate the public about the high costs of suburban sprawl, including loss of open space
and prime farmland; wasted tax revenue; isolated, auto-dependent communities; and
increased air and water pollution.
"Since World War, the American dream has been a house in the suburbs," declared Carl Pope, Sierra Club's Executive Director. "But that dream is turning into a nightmare of traffic, air pollution, lost open space, and higher taxes. The story is the same all across America. For decades, local, state and federal governments have encouraged people to move farther and farther out. Now, the costs of sprawling, runaway growth are clear and increasing. All across our country, cities and towns large and small are rethinking the costs of poorly managed growth."
The report ranks the top 30 sprawling cities in America -- the top 20 with population over 1 million, the top 5 sprawling cities with population between 500,000 and 1 million, and the top 5 sprawling cities with population between 200,000 and 500,000. The report documents how poorly planned growth is undermining Americans' quality of life. In large cities and small towns, sprawl is becoming inescapable.
All across America, sprawl is destroying open space, paving over vital watersheds and wetlands, creating air pollution by increasing traffic miles and road congestion, and devastating natural habitat for fish and wildlife. In addition, sprawl is forcing communities to come up with money -- often in the form of increased taxes -- to pay for building big-ticket infrastructure communities require, including new schools, roads, waterworks, and fire and police departments.
In "Dark Side of the American Dream," the Sierra Club offers smart growth solutions, many of which are already being tested in metropolitan areas around the country. These include purchasing open space, establishing growth boundaries, reinvesting in downtown areas, sharing the tax base more evenly between cities and their surrounding suburbs, and developing agricultural zoning policies. Other conservation techniques include educating the public, energizing grassroots activism, public referenda and organizing town and city meetings to establish open dialogue on development patterns.
"We need a sea change in the way cities think about growth and plan their development," urged Pope. "We need to move away from the outdated and destructive planning and management policies established 50 years ago."
With the advent of the Interstate Highway System in the post-World War II era, the American dream of owning a spacious home with a big green lawn nestled into the quiet suburbs became a reality for millions of Americans. While this growth accompanied prosperity and optimism in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, by the 1980s and 1990s, costs were out-pacing benefits all over the country. Between 1970 and 1990, almost 20 million acres of rural land were developed nationwide. By the mid-1990s, more than 400,000 acres every year were lost to the construction of strip malls, six and eight lane highways, housing subdivisions dozens of miles from urban centers, and all the services required to maintain this growth. Sprawl was transforming the American Dream into an American Nightmare.
The report was released in each of the ranked cities and in 20 other locations around the country. At each site, the message was clear: Curbing sprawl growth is crucial for the future of America's environment, rural landscapes, dwindling open space, endangered species and depleted urban cores.
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