Greenway featured on WORT radio program

Today, Lisa Coleman--representing City Engineering, and David Newby--a resident, discussed plans for the Greenway on the radio.

You can hear a podcast of the program--click on "In Our Backyard," Wednesday February 24, 6:30 pm.

The Greenway is the second topic during the program, and the discussion lasts about 5 minutes.  It's mostly a summary of what has happened so far.

Of particular interest were Lisa's comments about landscaping.  You may recall that at the last meeting, neighbors found details about the greenway plans skimpy, and requested the meeting of Feb. 25 specifically to learn more about landscaping plans. 

On the radio, Lisa provided a preview of her presentation at the next meeting.  Lisa said she had agreed to more landscaping, and that at the meeting she would present two options.  The City will...
  1. Plant some new shrubs and trees to replace ones that are lost--but this will occur only outside the channel filled with riprap; or
  2. Simply write a check to people whose property borders the greenway.  They can use the money for plantings of their own choosing on the greenway easement.  She says this will provide more freedom, and people won't have to wait for a lot of red tape. 
At that last meeting, we were presented with three options.  The first was one already soundly rejected by residents (bury the stream with a road on top).  The third option involved doing nothing about the erosion, so that also was not really an option.

So it looks like the same approach again--a charade where the city pretends to present options--appears to be flexible--when they really have just one outcome in mind.

The channel should be part of the landscaping plan

For Option 1 above, Lisa said that trees and shrubs would be planted outside the ripraped channel.   Well, in our narrow ravine, that doesn't leave much.  The cross-sectional diagram on plans shows a strip of riprap 18 feet wide.   With a channel this wide, then details about the channel itself are of critical importance:
  • Can the channel width be varied, or can it be curved, to avoid large trees?
  • Will the channel have pools, check dams, or vegetation?
  • For riprap, can residents be guaranteed that natural fieldstone will be used--rather than limestone rubble with edges sharp as glass?  Or do we learn that "natural stone was out of stock" when the dump truck arrives.
  • What provisions will be made for watering the plantings while they become established?
These questions are part of the "landscaping" discussion.

What's at stake in the greenway

It's about more than just the wildlife and trees in this one lovely spot.  If neighbors accept the despoiling of this place, then other neighborhoods are going to experience the same short-sighted process.

We're going to get an 18-foot-wide swath of rubble, and lose 65 trees, because the city seems incapable of planning to handle stormwaters upstream.  Large rain gardens could be planted on terraces to handle street runoff, as in Portland, Oregon.  A beautiful retention basin/rain garden could be created in the park.  Church parking lots could be modified to control runoff.  But none of this has been considered in this project, so instead we get enough riprap to nearly obliterate the ravine.

Engineering has no budget for maintenance of projects like this, so instead we get enough riprap to last till the next ice age, without any maintenance.  The whole approach and process needs to change.

A watershed plan could save everyone's time

After the last meeting, an editorial about the controversy praised the democratic process.  I certainly am grateful for the many hours that Lisa Coleman and Alder Chris Schmidt have put into communicating with citizens.   And citizens also have put in many long hours, researching alternatives and debating with one another.  But I fear much of this was time wasted, digging ourselves out of a hole that was created by poor planning--by a flawed process. 

What we need instead is a watershed approach, with many more tools in the kit than just tons of riprap and a chainsaw. We need a willingness to try new ways of handling rain where it falls.

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You can review here what "Friends of the Hillcrest-Upland Greenway" thought about the last meeting, and what they hope to learn at the Feb. 25th meeting.

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