And the discussion continues: What to do with the green space off Parker Road, next to Tanner Creek Park?

What’s most frustrating is that the land continues to be dismissed as “empty.” Empty, as in worthless. Empty as in it needs something on it to justify our allowing it to exist.

We have missed the point that the natural space is a valuable civic holding. That developing it into something, aka, bulldozing, cementing and preparing it for endless years of city expense to maintain, denies the city an awesome resource for a much lower cost.

I put forward that the space is currently the best multiuse space in the city. Empty it may be, but also useful and important beyond measure.

Everyone seems concerned about “city” encroachment out here. A few savvy politicians have even made it their pathway to government employment.

And developers are only too happy to cement every inch of land, pave whatever they can and build, build, build. I get it. Building things means jobs. Building an aqua center means jobs.

But that open space, far from being worthless and empty, is used by hundreds of individuals in different ways. Not to mention the beauty and value of having undeveloped space where the swallows can fly in the morning. And we know in 15 years, 30 years, 100 years, this area will hold only more dense development and busier streets.

Turning that open land into an aquatic center cannot possibly provide the diversity of use that residents of West Linn currently enjoy. People walk dogs, fly remote control airplanes, drive remote control cars, practice lacrosse and soccer, play catch, throw Frisbees and footballs, fly kites. The front of the space can be used for parking when the summer concert series draws too many people.

It’s a dynamic, useful, beautiful space. Having been here for more than seven years now I hear people complain about the endless suburban sprawl of Los Angeles and the idea that Portland will squeeze its way out here. And yet we are rushing to fill every dimple of land here. Even if I don’t appreciate the developers’ lust to bulldoze every hill, I understand their desire to make a little cash.

But we can take a civic stand and reserve some space for future West Linn residents to enjoy sans cement, asphalt and parking lots. We need to start protecting our most valuable element: open space. That’s one thing no developer or construction company or civic group can gift our city with once it’s gone.

Appreciate it. Enjoy it. Protect it. We can’t get it back when it’s gone.

Mark Fearing is a West Linn resident.

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