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Think twice on cow pasture

People are passionate about green, open spaces, especially in an urban setting. That passion was on display at a hearing in June about zoning and other changes at private property many affectionately call ‘the cow pasture.’

The property sits on the west side of Verda Lane between Chemawa Road and Dearborn Avenue. It has been a family farm for decades and the heirs don’t want to continue the operation; they are seeking the zone changes to prepare a sale of the property.

More than 100 people packed the city council chambers on  June 12, a majority of those who testified before Hearings Officer Cynthia Domas were against development of the property. A proposal calls for more than 100 apartments in several three-story buildings. An argument made against a development that size was the increased traffic in a corridor that is already failing according to traffic studies. A roundabout at Verda and Chemawa is to address that issue.

The city should listen to the people, take a step back and consider what could be lost forever if that property is developed into a large residential complex. The property’s owners desire to sell is a rare opportunity for the city to reshape the core of Keizer and preserve a large greenspace that can be enjoyed by thousands of households for years to come.

San Diego has Balboa Park, Chicago has Grant Park, New York has Central Park—all exist because civic leaders had a vision and created oases in the middle of an urban setting. Keizer can join other cities by buying that property and making it part of Claggett Creek Park which sits just to the west.

Some may say that Keizer already has a large park—Keizer Rapids—which many want to develop into a destination place. Keizer Rapids Park has its role to play, it will eventually have many amenities that will draw people from the region. Yet, Keizer Rapids Park’s location is still a mystery to a sizable number of Keizer residents—many who never visited or even know where it is. With the boat ramp, the amphitheatre, the disc golf course, the dog park and eventually sports fields and the big playground, Keizer Rapids Park will be a amusement park for a myriad of interests. But, it is off the beaten path.

An expanded Claggett Creek Park would be hard to miss. The existing farmhouse is not up to code for public uses and would have to be razed; the farm buildings would be torn down, too. That would leave a large greenspace beside one of Keizer’s high traffic routes.

After the city purchased the land and added it to Claggett Creek Park, improvements would not have to be grandiose. A parking lot would be needed, pathways from the bluff to the creek could be constructed and would be a good project for an Eagle Scout or a community group.

If the property is sold and developed, it is lost forever. This is a chance for the people and leadership of Keizer to contemplate the benefits of a large park in the center of Keizer, what it can mean for the neighborhoods around it and what it can mean for the value of those neighboring households.

City bodies such as the Planning Commission and the city council cannot dismiss the desires and concerns of the people. Development is the be all and end all; there will be many opportunities for development after the Urban Growth Boundary is expanded.

Does the city council have the vision and the poltiical will akin to the developers of Central, Balboa, and Grant Parks? Let’s hope so.