Monday, January 14, 2013
Clean It Up First, Then Plan
Speech to Grants Pass City Council, January 5, 2010
The presentation last month of the City's and citizens' plans for the River Road Reserve was interesting; the most eye-opening part was the map of Grants Pass and the River Road Reserve with City properties highlighted; next to the city properties, the Reserve is immense. Staff and citizens recognized that in reserving large blocks of it for farming, and even pear orchard. But farming takes farmers, and you have the same problem Naumes did; no takers for large parcels of farm land covered with diseased pear trees, treated poles and steel wires.
We bought that land, it was said, for parkland sometime in the future, because it was so cheap compared to land inside the Urban Growth Boundary, at $11,000 per acre. I submit that we won't know the true cost of that land until we clean it up. It isn't going to be easy or cheap to do that with those wires in the way, but we have to do it now, to save the rest of the pear and apple trees in our part of the Rogue Valley, at least, and to avoid being sued by owners of large orchards downwind in Jackson County. I suggest that we don't ask for any plan to be approved for that land until we have cleaned it up.
For one thing, that will give us time. Our state is in a profound fiscal crisis, where our land use laws could change very quickly. Oregon is starting to realize that our high unemployment situation is structural, and just might be tied to both our tax structure and our restrictions on the use of our land. We should wait and see what happens to these laws, and actively work to change them to allow more industry and small farming, at least.
For another thing, it will give many of us work. We have a lot of unemployed people who could be hired to clear that land, and we need to get it done before the trees leaf out in the spring. According to the video about Abandoned Orchards put out by Jackson County, which I hope you have watched on roguetv.org, we should have done it when we first bought the land with no intention of maintaining those trees. Now the trees appear heavily diseased and it has become an emergency.
Thirdly, the City has trouble maintaining its land inside the city limits. The property around the sewage treatment plant is covered with star thistle where it isn't watered lawn, and they are spreading into the All-Sports Park and the surrounding neighborhood. We should control our properties in town before we plan another park.