Monday, January 14, 2013

City: Abate Your Toxic Fire Hazard!

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, January 19, 2011

I’d like you to use your imaginations tonight.  Think back to the presentation by Community Service Officer Jeff Geddings a while back, and the properties he was showing you that had gotten to the fire-and-safety-hazard stage.  How many years of neglect do you think it took for them to look like that?  My guess would be two or three. 
The River Road Reserve property has 150 acres of orchard that has been neglected for four years.  A man came to your meeting over a year ago and pointed out that it was being covered with noxious blackberries and puncture vine.  He didn’t even mention the more ordinary wild carrot, wild lettuce and tall grasses.  How thick do you think they are after 4 years?  How much thicker will they be this summer?
I drive past that orchard frequently in my work, so I hadn’t really noticed the gradual change.  It took my daughter riding with me to dump a load of trimmings at Southern Oregon Compost to point out that your orchard is likely to burn this summer.
That orchard is full of treated poles and suspended plastic irrigation line that would produce toxic smoke to fill this valley.  In short, your orchard has become precisely the sort of health and safety hazard that the City tells people to clean up or the City will do it for them, at a punishing price.  I spoke to the County last week about doing just that if you won’t.
I asked Laurel Sampson, when she appeared on KAJO’s talk show last week, what the City is doing about cleaning up its orchard.  First, she told us about the chemical cleanup.  When I pointed out that I was talking about the trees, she said that the City had to finish planning what to do with them; they were thinking of using some of them.  She managed to prove that she hadn’t heard a word I said in my last two speeches in this room, nor read any of the city or county speeches sent to her by e-mail.  I asked her to watch the Abandoned Orchards video on in their “Videos on Demand”; I hope that you have.
Nature does not wait on your plans.  You don’t have time to plan what to do with the property and get those plans approved.  You don’t have pear trees that are worth saving.  You have a health and safety hazard that has to be cleaned up before fire season starts. 
After it’s cleaned up and planted to pasture mix, you will have years to plan, and you might as well take your time.  Circumstances can change; this state might just take another look at its land-use system that is preventing new farms and industries.

Published at Yahoo Voices under Land and Liability #9

1 comment:

  1. It only took most of a year after this for the City to contract with a nearby farmer to clear this land and farm it. Plans for any other use are on a long hold.