Bruce Appleyard calls them "free-range children."
You know the type: children who are allowed to walk to school by themselves, trek to a friend's house by themselves, roam through the neighborhood woods by themselves.
Appleyard - a Portland, Ore.-based planning consultant - told city leaders Thursday that such children are an endangered species across the country, including in Lawrence.
"If we go through another generation like this, our children won't know what it is like to walk through a neighborhood by themselves," Appleyard said during a city study session on building great communities. "They'll be driven everywhere. I'm very concerned that when I talk to young people who don't have the ability to freely explore, they're losing a real sense of community."
But it doesn't have to be that way, Appleyard said during his presentation on communities that have created walkable, livable neighborhoods and commercial centers.
The idea fits right in with the new urbanism movement that city commissioners and planners have been exploring. City Commissioner Sue Hack said it was time for the community to discuss how Lawrence will look and feel in the future.
"What I heard over and over again is that we need to decide what our core values are and what our vision for the community is before we can really move forward," Hack said. "We need to have that discussion and get that direction."
Hack said the city should consider hiring an outside consultant - perhaps someone like Appleyard - to conduct informational forums and a public education campaign that would lead to new urbanism and smart growth strategies for Lawrence's future growth.
Appleyard said Lawrence has great potential, with new projects like the Hobbs Taylor Lofts that encourage people to live downtown. He said city leaders may want to formally encourage more of that type of development.
"You can put more into your existing downtown," Appleyard said. "Put money into making it the best place for walking and biking. Your downtown has so many great things going for it, I think you can really build on that."
Mayor Boog Highberger, though, said he also wanted to ensure that new developments outside of downtown are developed in smart growth manners.
Hack said that's where a public education campaign likely would be needed, because she acknowledged that developers sometimes associate the smart growth phrase with more development fees and more burdensome regulations.
Appleyard said that doesn't always have to be the case. In fact, he said, many communities that have successfully employed the strategies have provided incentives to developers.