It might not seem like that much – say, 5,000 square feet, the size of an average city lot in Seattle. But when you look at what once was living there and the current deadness of the space surrounded by a vibrant forest, well…
This horseshoe pit in Lincoln Park was built in the mid 1930’s by the WPA. It has not been used regularly in decades. Its most frequent activity these days is a weekend beer party in the summer. See over 100 pictures taken there in the last eight months. There are six trees growing within its chain link fences: a western red cedar, two douglas firs, and three hazelnuts. They are all at least three years old. The forest would like this space back. It should be replanted with native plants and trees, 40 concrete slabs should be dug up and hauled out, 200 feet of chain link fence should be removed, and the forest should be allowed to heal. The tree roots reaching out for each other from either side should be allowed to touch – and intertwine with the youngsters already starting to grow there.
This space is a prime candidate for mitigation – a paying pack for, or a making up for – the “development” of an undeveloped area for recreational use. Here’s an example: the Cheasty Greenspace Bike Park. If proponents for that plan get their way with the development of nearly three miles of mountain bike trails and jumps in an undeveloped natural area – they will take away at least 50,000 square feet of vegetation. It will be made into trails, paths, jumps, and ramps – which will never support any living thing.
To mitigate the loss to the Cheasty natural area, I propose this: replant, reforest, and naturalize the horseshoe pit at Lincoln Park – and another 45,000 square feet of “developed” but currently unused potential natural areas.
Can’t find another 45,000 square feet of developed areas to replant and remake into natural areas? Then Cheasty does not lose any area to “development”. No mountain bike park.
This example might seem extreme, but I believe it is timely, and it speaks to the conversations going on all over in Seattle right now about protecting and maintaining our natural areas. And it’s not extreme. It’s fair.
This is the proposal: no net loss to natural areas in our parks system. The bleeding must stop. If a recreational area is to be built in an undeveloped part of our parks – then exactly the same amount of a previously developed area must be returned to a natural area.
It’s called mitigation, and it’s way past time for it in our park system.
More to come – and it’s not just limited to our parks. – Mark