I'm sharing a moving opinion piece by Jane Wille in today's Statesman Journal because we need more poetic feeling and less financial greed here in Salem.
As you'll read below, Wille is saddened by the loss of the Old Lindbeck Orchard property in West Salem, which she says is to become high-density retirement housing.
Last year the Salem Breakfast on Bikes blogger reported that it looked like a fenced gated community apartment complex was planned for the property.
This supposedly is progress. I'm not so sure.
After Wille's piece, you can read the comment I left on the Statesman Journal web site about what she wrote. I'll have more to say on this subject down below.
Here's an iPhone screenshot of the Google Maps satellite image of the Old Lindbeck Orchard.
And here's what Wille said about the transformation of the orchard property:
It was a heart-wrenching day in West Salem as men and machines moved on the last remnant of the old Lindbeck orchard and farm (on Orchard Heights Road NW) .
Sold by the owners years ago for development of high-density retirement housing, the land, having been spent on industry and profit it once yielded, enjoyed its own retirement, its own industry, its own profit.
This orchard, “abandoned” by the human enterprise, responded with its own enterprise: habitat for plants, animals, insects, soil microbes, fungi, mosses; food for those same inhabitants; shelter; and a treasured place for the local people who walked, sat, thought, watched, listened, laughed, cried, breathed, and reveled in the richness, the diversity, and the peace among the old trees and all the denizens living there.
Relegated to oblivion by those who had every right to relegate it, it drew life of all sorts to thrive and prosper: feeding, sheltering, comforting, energizing, inspiring, moving, quieting all who would come with capacity to appreciate it. Until the bulldozers, the mowers, the one-woman protester, and the police met in a sad and hopeless moment — the surveys done, the meetings met, the papers signed, the legalities impregnable.
One of the young men on a machine said to the one-woman protestor who lay herself down in his path that he was sorry, he had education enough to run his machine and, in that running, to feed his own hungry souls. He was bereft; we all are in the loss of this living, dynamic, diverse treasure sacrificed forever.
Ideally, an old orchard, like an old relative, is safe, soft-spoken, unconcerned with time’s frenzies, experienced, wise in its way. Once that orchard, that land, produced in response to the hard-working people who shepherded it: making and giving its fruits to the farmers who worked it, cared for it, as a young, vigorous money-maker, supporter of commerce and feeder of the apple-hungry, thereby delighting tastebuds near and far.
The retirement of this place, left to simply be, is most rudely, irrevocably ruined, with far-reaching implications for all of us. If it cannot survive, neither can we.
Jane Wille, a South Salem resident, can be reached at [email protected]
This was my comment.
Jane, thank you for giving voice in such a poetic and sensitive fashion to what so many people in Salem feel, yet have difficulty expressing in the way you did so well in this opinion piece.
In the single-minded pursuit of monetary profit, developers are laying waste to priceless, irreplaceable land that could be fashioned into a fresh use while still preserving natural habitat that is so essential for human thriving.
With every needless destruction of trees and other natural wonders, Salem is selling its soul for... what? A few extra bucks in the pockets of greedy developers, while the quality of life for everyone else in this town suffers.
There are lots of people who feel the way you do. We need to make our voices heard more strongly. Hopefully your paean to the now-gone West Salem orchard and farm will lead to what is known as "smart growth," not the dumb growth we're experiencing now.
Here's some explanation of why I said what I did.
Fairly regularly I hear from people who are disturbed by how a new development is affecting their neighborhood. This isn't NIMBY, Not in My Backyard, reflexive anti-development sentiments.
Rather, these people have good reasons to be concerned about why their quality of life is being needlessly sacrificed when the owner of a piece of property could have still made a good amount of profit while preserving trees and other natural areas.
I'm reminded of how the Salem Futures project was stopped in its tracks after making good progress, following a conservative takeover of the Mayor's office and City Council.
Googling "Salem Futures," there is very little information online about this effort. Thankfully, Salem Weekly has some mentions of it in the newspaper's online archive.
Here's excerpts from a 2011 Salem Weekly story, "Out with the old, in with the new."
“Smart growth” was once said with a sneer locally. “Sustainability” meant large businesses were not welcome and “green” was just the color of money being raked in.
Field Director of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV) Tresa Horney says that gauging Salem’s progress environmentally is hard to pinpoint because of the economic circumstances that the city has faced.
“At one point Salem was recognized as a national leader in environmental issues, under [former mayor] Mike Swaim. Today, it’s obviously a different story,” says Horney.
Development philosophy changed drastically when Salem City Council turned more conservative in 2003. While each of the councilor positions are non-partisan, the decisions made began to show that voters had elected to move farther to the right.
Salem became, according to the Associated Press at the time, the first major city in Oregon to establish an environmental commission to focus solely on local issues in 2002. It was disbanded in 2004.
...April 2004 – Salem City Council votes to eliminate the Salem Futures Citizen Advisory Council. Salem Futures had amassed, reportedly, $1.3 million in city and state funds and thousands of hours of volunteer time.
Salem Futures planned community development over the next 50 years. At the time, the CAC was made up of approximately 30 community leaders.
And here's a comment by Richard Reid regarding Salem Futures on a 2017 Salem Weekly story about the City of Salem's first strategic plan.
Some of your readers and a couple of your Editorial Committee will recall the strategic plan we called Salem Futures created during Mayor Swaim’s second term. Articles about Salem Futures are in local news archives available at Salem Public Library.
It was a pretty big deal; ODOT granted $1.3 million to help the City host charettes across town for a little over a year. Dialogues between a broad range of community interests and city planners produced a planning document that drew positive comment from beyond Oregon.
Unusual for a strategic plan Salem Futures was drafted on a 50-year timeline laying out major transportation corridors and other features like “walkability” and “public space” where people could meet up and linger. Multi-use zone overlays were designed to nudge commercial development closer to existing and future transportation corridors; a way of lowering the public’s cost of providing services while streamlining entry into the local marketplace.
All that went bye-bye thanks to the Salem Chamber of Commerce deciding that Mayor Swaim and a liberal majority on the City Council needed to be replaced by conservatives who would prioritize the interests of developers over the broad public interest.
Salem is still paying the price for this.
We've gotten ugly sprawl, traffic jams, a lack of attractive mixed-use neighborhoods, and a general anti-environment philosophy at City Hall that has only recently begun to be altered.
Just as a supertanker takes a long time to change direction, so does planning and land use policies here in Salem. It was a big mistake to disband Salem Futures when much good work had been accomplished by this pioneering effort.
I'm hopeful that five or ten years from now, people will look back on 2018 as a turning point for Salem -- a time when the mistakes of the conservative-dominated past had begun to be rectified by a wiser group of progressives on the City Council.