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You Can Fight City Sprawl

Do you dread urban sprawl -- strip malls, characterless suburban developments and traffic?

You are not alone, says Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club. CBS This Morning Co-Anchor Thalia Assuras interviewed him Monday.

"We as Americans don't want urban sprawl, and we don't have to have urban sprawl," he says.

The Sierra Club released a report Monday rating all 50 states in terms of how they deal with urban sprawl. The report, Solving Sprawl, finds that:

  • There are a lot of places doing well on protecting open spaces.
  • A lot of places have good laws on the books but are not putting them into practice.
The Sierra Club's message is that sprawl is not inevitable.

"People will say, 'I will always be stuck in traffic,' it's part of life.'" But Pope says that does not have to happen. "You can build housing communities with sidewalks, and in a way to let kids walk to school rather than use buses.

You can plan to not build over parks and green spaces.

The Sierra Club says there is a way to save ourselves from urban sprawl.

The report says that if all there is are freeways, then people will drive everywhere.

Where there is good public transportation, though, people use it effectively.

The report says four states - Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont - are leading the way in winning the war against sprawl.

The 50 states were rated in four areas:

  • open space protection,
  • land use planning,
  • transportation
  • urban revitalization.
The states doing the worst job of controlling sprawl include Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

Pope says that communities must decide and proactively invest and restore their rivers, parks and green open spaces. These spots of beauty create economic anchors, too.

"We all need to say to ourselves, how can we give developers the right signals so that they do build neighborhoods we want to live in, and not just sprawling developments with no community?" says Pope.

He points out that the neighborhoods built in the 1920s have held their property values better than those built in the 1950s because they were real communities - they have local stores, sidewalks and easy access to trains and parks.

"They have a real sense of neighborhood," Pope points out.

He added that building sidewalks is not rocket science.

Pope explains that local politicians may have spent years getting money from developers. "Unless you insist on what you want in your communities locally, your politicians won't pay attention."

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