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The initiative puts too many limitations on our ability to manage our natural areas

Last week the Oswego Lake Watershed Council adopted a resolution opposing the initiative being promoted by the LoveLOParks folks. Several Friends of parks groups have also expressed opposition to it. These are citizen groups that strongly support preserving our natural areas.

The reason they oppose the initiative is that it puts too many limitations on our ability to manage our natural areas. For example, if the initiative were adopted our Parks and Recreation Department:

— Could not install any hard surface trails, limiting access to individuals with disabilities.

— Could not relocate part of an existing hard-surface trail, even if the conditions on the ground required it.

— Could not build a trail useable by the department's ATVs to bring in compost and gravel for trail maintenance.

— Could not add any parking near trailheads, thus pushing parking and congestion problems onto residential streets.

— Could not employ common forest management practices (such as thinning and removing dangerous trees) and recoup any of the costs by selling the trees.

— Could not build any road for fire or emergency vehicles.

Our natural areas come in a variety of sizes and conditions. Some are large (such as Springbrook Park at 52 acres) and some are small (such as Cornell Natural Area at 3 acres). Some are flat (River Run), some are steep (Cooks Butte Park). Some have open space (Kerr Open Space), some have wetlands (Iron Mountain Park). Each area is unique, and each needs an individually crafted management plan.

The initiative, which would amend the city's charter, would impose one-size-fits-all limitations on how we manage 15 of our natural areas. This is not a responsible, wise way to manage these diverse areas.

There is a much better way to do this: with a management plan specifically tailored for each natural area. In the city's Parks Plan 2025 (adopted after much citizen involvement), citizens called for management plans to be created for our parks. Citizens in the community have been working on these plans for years, and the work continues. We now have management plans for several of our natural areas.

The proponents and opponents of the initiative have the same goal — to preserve our city's natural areas. Let's work together toward that goal, without limiting our ability to design the best plan for each park.

Please do not sign the initiative petition. It is ill-conceived and too limiting. We have a much better way to manage our parks.

In writing this letter, I do so in my individual capacity and not as a member of, or on behalf of, the city's Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Advisory Board.

Doug McKean is a member of the Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Advisory Board and past president of Friends of Springbrook Park.


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