Thursday, January 10, 2013

Land is both Asset and Liability

Speech to the Josephine County Commissioners, 9/29/2010

Commissioner Ellis said, in our last meeting, that our parks are the greatest asset the county owns.  That may well be true, but parkland is also a great maintenance liability.  Facilities must be kept in good repair.  Lawns must be watered and mowed.  Litter must be picked up. 
Closing a park, like Turtle Lane was for many years, does not decrease that liability; litter still gathers even where there is no lawn or facilities to keep up.  People still used the park, even if they had to park outside it and walk to the river.  When it was closed, Turtle Lane became an attractive nuisance to the neighbours, who had to put up with people using it, partying in it, and parking on their road to do so.
This is another good reason to give management of our county parks to neighborhood associations, but that is not what I want to talk about.  I’d like to talk about the City of Grants Pass’ liability in the River Road Reserve.
Maintenance of farmland is a huge liability.  Land that has been managed for food production cannot just be left fallow and neglected without becoming a weedy nuisance to its neighbors. 
This liability, and the difficulty of rehabilitating that pear orchard with hop wires strung all over it, not the chemical contamination of a tiny piece of it, was probably the reason that Naumes sold that 250 acres to the City of Grants Pass.  The Grants Pass City Council and administration apparently didn’t think about the rehabilitation or maintenance liability of that land when they bought it so cheap. 
But then, they aren’t in the habit of thinking about property maintenance before a piece of property gets to the health and safety hazard stage.  Their in-town properties harbor star thistle, puncture vine, and blackberries, and they tolerate outrageous violations of their weed and litter nuisance ordinances all over town.  They don’t even attempt to control their own noxious and nuisance weeds until someone complains; their attempts to do so are pitiful.  They let puncture vine grow to seed on downtown sidewalks and allow star thistle along their river walk.
They added 250 acres to their park inventory, outside their Urban Growth Boundary, that they legally can’t use for anything but farming.  The County should make it clear to the City that they are not free to neglect farmland that is within County jurisdiction and help them realize that farmland is an expensive asset to hold, by enforcing the state’s noxious weed statutes against them.

Published at under Land and Liability.

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