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After 50 Years of Sprawl, a Profound Sense of Loss

Decades ago, Kent was a small Ohio college town, some 40 miles from Cleveland, surrounded by countryside, streams, and thick forests.

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But slowly, for the last fifty years, single-family, unplanned housing development -- sprawl -- has been making its way southeast. It took constant effort by two generations, but now all those miles that once separated small town from big city have been replaced by "an uninterrupted chain of sprawl," writes Marc Lefkowitz at Network blog Green City Blue Lake.

Lefkowtiz recently drove down to survey the damage. It isn't a pretty sight, he reports:

The rolling hills and lush valleyland near Tinker’s Creek in Portage County are a long drive on the speedway from Cleveland. The Frost Road exit from I-480 is at once as close and as far away from the scene that must have greeted Moses Cleavland when he stood here hundreds of years ago.

In the 1990s, the same pattern of the past 40 years started developing here. The highway was extended, trees felled, wetlands filled and cul-de-sac roads paved. Neo-traditional homes started filling in the forest land between Hudson and Streetsboro.

We turn on to a road built without sidewalks. A tributary to Tinker’s Creek runs under the road in a pipe. I can see the tributary flowing freely at the edge of where homes mark out five-acre lots of landscaped beds and lawn. Pools of suburban living at the edge of a once-vast wood.

We are an hour's drive from Cleveland, staring at the model of achievement of the last century. Living in the forest is one man’s American Dream, but sadly, the dream is spoiled by his paving the way for so many others like him.

Elsewhere on the Network: Wash Cycle challenges readers to distinguish between made up nonsense and actual quotes from anti-bike sensation Dorothy Rabinowitz. Better Institutions says more investment is needed if Safe Routes to School is to have a real impact on childhood obesity. And the FABB blog wishes farewell to outgoing U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

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