Thursday, July 23, 2009

Fantastic! Parks Board unanimously urges Council to reject "stimulus" money to lock up 200 acres of cropland in Minto Brown Park!

minto brown 1.jpgMinto Brown Park -- a unique treasure providing wildlife habitat and farmland in an urban growth boundary. Image by JamesCohen via Flickr

Wonderful performance by some dedicated volunteers, the Salem Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. These volunteers met for a long meeting tonight to discuss the staff proposal to sell a permanent easement for nearly 200 acres of Minto Brown Park land to the feds in the name of "stimulus" and "emergency flood control."

The City Council will be holding a public hearing on the issue next Monday night (6:30, Council Chambers). Now the Council will be looking at a unanimous recommendation by the Parks Board to
  • Reject the easement proposal

  • Put the currently farmed land in the park out for competitive bidding

  • Revise the Park Master Plan.
This was a perfect motion. It should be a very strong encouragement to the Council to walk away from the hurried proposal to change the land use in the Park with virtually no public awareness or discussion, and locking up that land would be pretty much directly opposed to the current park master plan. (If the Council decides to pursue the sale of the easements, the deadline is August 17.)

The Parks Board not only rightly urges the Council to reject the hurried proposal but it also goes on to hit the nail on the head by calling for the Minto Brown Park Master Plan to be revised -- this plan, which was last revised in 1995 after a lot of hard work by citizens, is not even available on the City's website and there have been signs that some in the City weren't even aware of it, much less looking to implement it. That's the time and the right forum for everyone to deliberate carefully about the future of this unique and treasured resource.

GREAT JOB by the Parks Board members. Now the only thing needed is for citizens to show up Monday night, July 27, at City Hall to make sure the Council knows that the people of Salem don't want to lose control of their beautiful local park in return for a quick hit of borrowed money from the feds.

Special point: One of the parks board members made the excellent point that, while some might hope that the money would be put aside in a fund to pay for future upkeep of the park (which we currently get for free on the farmed acreage from the outfit farming those acres), the whole idea of stimulus money is to spend it, not bank it. So there's yet another way that this whole proposal is a bad fit for Salem.

Prior posts on Minto or the easement here, here, here, here, and here.
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