Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Great news for Salem -- preserving access to undeveloped land

Wonderful idea. Huzzah for Mr. Gehlar and the Audubon Society:

. . . a recent $1.35 million bequest to Salem Audubon Society has launched the small nonprofit into just the organization to help reverse the trend. . . .

But when longtime audubon member Mark Gehlar left the society a donation in his will, the 1,600-member nonprofit had the opportunity to expand its education role in Salem.

The way? By building an easy-to-access nature center.

The society has its sights set on a sliver of land on the former Boise Cascade site. The area is next to the Eco-earth globe in Salem's Riverfront Park.

It's the perfect location because a proposed footbridge across the Willamette Slough would connect the nature center with 22 acres of Salem Audubon Society property, said Sue Johnston, executive director of Salem Audubon Society.

"To have a really successful nature center, you need a diversity of habitats," said David Harrison, a Salem Audubon Society board member. "This area is centrally located, it would have the footbridge to Minto Island and it would have access to acres and acres of public land along the waterfront."

A decision about whether the center could be located on the Boise Cascade site is at least six months away, said Tim Gerling, who is a project manager with the group developing the property.

Another possibility is locating the center in Riverfront Park. Either way, the land needs to be donated or at bargain prices.

"Our chief obstacle is getting a piece of property," said board member Harrison. "So we are trying to build public support ... because we see it as a nature center for the entire community."

UPDATE: Salem Monthly story on the Audubon Society plan.