Some well-meaning citizens are circulating a misleading petition that would theoretically protect our natural areas by amending the City Charter. Unfortunately, instead of protecting our natural areas, this blanket amendment, when applied to 290 acres of park land, would allow detrimental uses, reduce public access and restrict our ability to be good stewards. It's a one-size-fits-all approach that treats all natural areas the same. It does not respect their unique character. It ignores the work of our citizens who have put hundreds of hours into developing master plans for our parks and natural areas.
Many people who actively care for these natural areas have serious concerns about this ill-advised approach. When you are approached to sign the petition, consider the following:
— This proposed amendment would not allow paved trails for ADA access thereby keeping out people with limited mobility or those pushing strollers.
— It would limit the development of access roads for fire and emergency vehicles.
— It would limit management techniques by preventing thinning and removal of trees for forest management and healthy habitats.
— It would eliminate parking lots at trailheads and put the parking impacts on neighborhoods.
— It would allow potentially detrimental uses such as single-track mountain biking and horse trails.
This proposal is inconsistent in what it allows and prevents. It allows uses that are identified in existing master plans that would not be allowed in areas without master plans. Of the 290 acres included in this petition, 238 acres already have approved master or management plans.
There's a better way to protect our natural areas that will restrict impacts to our natural areas and allow appropriate use.
Instead of an ill-advised charter amendment with unintended consequences that precludes the thoughtful management of each natural area, let's develop effective long-term protection for them through individual natural area management plans that are tailored to each area as called for in Parks Plan 2025.
Let's harness the incredible energy of the many Friends and stewardship groups who are the boots on the ground and who are working tirelessly right now to manage and protect our natural areas. Let's involve more citizens in this work and continue our productive partnership with the city. Our citizens have confidence in our Parks Department as evidenced by the two to one approval of the recent park bond.
Let's come together to develop meaningful solutions for the protection and enhancement of our natural areas using the tools that are already in place. That work is started and is ongoing, but it's not done. Let's continue to protect and defend our natural areas. Please don't sign the petition to change the charter. Let's choose the better way. Let's save Lake Oswego parks for all.
Nancy Gronowski is a retired landscape architect, former park planner and former member of Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
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