Greenspaces: We Need 'Em

Leslie Carlson

Recently, I was discussing Measure 26-80 with a progressive friend. He said he planned to vote "no" on the measure, which surprised me. His reasoning was this: there's a lot on the ballot locally in Portland this year, and he was picking and choosing which measures were "most important."

There's nothing I hate more than pitting good measures for schools and libraries versus good measures for things like parks. First of all, I'm not sure they aren't part and parcel of the same package--that is, that greenspaces are good for kids in the same way school is good for kids.

Of course we need to create greenspaces in the region for clean water and protect fish and wildlife. But it may be even more important to protect greenspaces for people; those of us here today and for the generations to come. Here's why:

Recent research into the effect of natural areas on children shows that time spent in wilderness has a therapeutic effect on learning and behavioral disorders. Anecdotally, many parents and teachers report that time spent in the natural out-of-doors has a "calming" effect on kids (as a parent of three young children, I can attest to this fact). It may be that in the not-to-distant future, we find that people without access to nature are suffering both psychologically and physically.

Studies of schoolchildren also find that access to nature views and natural light can improve student performance and behavior in the classroom. It seems realistic, then, to assume that all of us need nature--sun, fresh air, trees, wildlife, running water--to perform optimally. After all, we aren't too many generations from the hunter-gatherers who spent all their time in natural settings.

Nature is disappearing from our region every year as we grow. As John Olmsted did 100 years ago, it is time for our generation to protect small areas of nature before they are all paved and built over. As many as a million people may move here in the next 25 yeas, and if we don't move quickly to secure greenspace land, it will be long gone.

Last, one of the best things about Measure 26-80 is that it creates new neighborhood parks in areas of the city that are already parks-deficient, such as outer SE Portland. And it all costs less than $3 a month for the average household--or about the price of one skinny latte a month.

Sounds like a good deal to me.

  • Sarah (unverified)

    Yes, and didn't WW also suggest voting against this using the same logic as your friend? I was surprised.

  • Mike Houck (unverified)

    I am responding to Leslie Carlson, Greenspaces, Why We Need 'Em

    I could not agree more with Leslie and won't repeat her reasons for voting YES on MEASURE 26-80, NATURAL AREAS, PARKS AND GREENSPACES.

    I will, however, say that most of the region's residents don't buy the "either or" argument that we can afford greenspaces, or schools, or affordable fill in the blanks. We are trying to build a livable city and region and without clean water, access to nature, parks, and trails this would cease to be the place I would want to continue living in. Irnonically, it's our parks and greenspaces that attract people and businesses to the region, thereby contributing to the region's economic well-being as well as ecological health. yet funding for natural areas and parks is frequently referred to as an "extra frill."

    Measure 26-80 will be the only source of revenue to ensure the most ecologically significant greenspaces are protected in perpetuity. And, as Leslie pointed out, for a pittance...less than $3 per month for the average home owner.

    I'm voting YES on Measure 26-80 because it's both the ecologically and economically sensible thing to do. If we put off purchasing the areas targeted in Measure 26-80 we will pay double or triple toda's cost in five or ten years. In fact, the more than 8,200 acres Metro and local park providers like the City of Portland Parks and Recreation purchase with the 1995 regional greenspaces bond measure has doubled in value already.

    Finally, I should point out that Willamette Week is the only publication I have seen to urge a no vote. Why? There reasons were, frankly, bizarre. They said that this program was an example of "mission creep" for Metro, our regional government and that Measure 26-80 was a way to "send a message" to Metro to narrow its mission. How is the protection of water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and access to nature throughout the region constitute "mission creep" for a regional government? Put simply WW consistently disses Metro, in my opinion because they don't understand the role of regional government. I speak throughout the United States, Canada and abroad on urban planning and greenspace issues. Every other region I've visited would die to have a regional government that has the authority to address issues that Measure 26-80 addresses.

    Vote Yes on Measure 26-80 to improve the region's water quality, to protect fish and wildlife and to provide access to nature for everyone, regardless of their economic means. If you feel you need more information to make up your mind, go to Portland Audubon Society's website, or the YES ON 26-80 CAMPAIGN website, Both have the list of endorsers, factualy information, including maps of sites to be purchased.

    Mike Houck, Director Urban Greenspaces Institute [email protected]

  • (Show?)

    Yes, and didn't WW also suggest voting against this using the same logic as your friend? I was surprised.

    I was surprised, too.

  • KISS (unverified)

    Like good demos never a tax you can't embrace. Mike, do you make a financial gain from greenspace?

  • Dan (unverified)

    Parks and open spaces add to the livability of our region. By virtue of that, our property values go up. We ALL make a financial gain from greenspace!

  • lw (unverified)

    Mike, if "every other region would die to have a regional government" like METRO, then why haven't these other regions voted to do so? I wonder if your audience is limited at all your speaking engagements.

  • edison (unverified)

    This isn't complicated. And, this isn't about dems or repubs. This isn't even about whether Metro is a good 'regional government'. This is about preserving a bit of what we have left, 'cause once it's gone, it's gone, and at least partially, it's about recognizing we all need to retain some contact with the land. Opponents are mainly motivated because they see this measure as lost development opportunities. Such visionaries!

  • Marychris Mass (unverified)

    Sorry I will be voting no on 26-80 also. I agree with WW's assessment and also, as a dog owner and off-leash activist, I am tired of supporting Metro's land grabs on land I cannot use with my canine companion. They do not allow dogs on their lands (you can't even bring them in the car in some picnic areas) and they refuse to dialogue with the dog owners (who make up almost half of the households in Portland) as they have with the bike riders, who probably do way more damage to trails and natural areas than dogs do. They're argument that dogs damage natural areas does not hold up and we are not stupidly asking for hiking options in sensitive area, just some trails we can hike on safely. This will add substantially, for me, to my property taxes and I'm tired of paying for land I can't use. Dog owners, please take this into consideration when you are voting.

  • Dave Lister (unverified)

    I think people pretty much have to pick and choose unless they have unlimited finances. As far as local options are concerned, remember that the Portland FPD&R can eat into those if the allocated prop tax doesn't meet the committment to the police and fire officers. Your money for parks, children or schools may in fact not end up there. The proposed reform of FPD&R on the ballot is a long term fix; it won't solve property tax "compression" in the short run.

  • Mike Houck (unverified)

    My response to KISS who wrote: "Like good demos never a tax you can't embrace. Mike, do you make a financial gain from greenspace?"

    The anwser is no. And, I am sorry you seem to have such a cynical outlook on life. Must be lonely out there. It may seem old-fashioned or quaint but those working on Yes on 26-80 Natural Areas, Parks and Streams and similar efforts simply want to make the city and the region a better place to live, for us all. I realize it may seem naiive to you KISS, but there are those of us who care about the common good. Fortunately there are those who work on issues like 26-80 simply because they care about the future of the region, not for any financial benefit.

    Mike Houck


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