Ice. On Facebook this morning, I posted a screen shot of the NOAA weather app showing how Albany, Oregon missed the ice bullet. Just a few miles north of us, in the capital, Salem, trees fell, transformers exploded and roadways iced up. Ice storms happens a lot along the Willamette and Columbia River corridors. The Columbia Gorge, with Portland a few miles to the west, shovels up ice like a gardener applies compost—in large quantities over and over.
It’s cold, yeah; a big Pacific storm cooled by arctic air has rolled through, distributing snow in Seattle and Portland. Southward, where Salem is, the temperature was just warm enough to eschew plain tap water and ask for ice instead. Here in Albany, over night we had some ice—enough to bring down a heavy limb of a rambling wild plum in the park just behind us, tossing a useless tangled branch into our yard. Luckily the fence is still standing.
This introduction brings me to the meat, so to speak, of my blog today. Last week I wrote about the park behind us, the graceful, tall oak copse, the catchment swale below the power lines. As irony would, with wiggling fingers in ears and tongue sticking out, it blurt out the news that the City of Albany has decided to divest itself of this tiny rural landscape on the city limits.
I learned this in the local newspaper that sends me news updates via email. A group called the Creating Housing Coalition (CHC), associated with Habitat for Humanity, is hoping to acquire the property for the purpose of a tiny house village for homeless and impoverished people and families.
My first reaction was a sickening sadness. Not the park, I said to myself, not our park. I felt as if my favorite cat had just died, or I’d learned I had a terminal disease. Utter grief.
That said, my first resort to feeling better was to get online and find out what the hell was going on.
The Albany City Council needs money, like every city council in the world. Also we, our little rural town, are suffering mightily from the lack of affordable housing. So, the Council looked at everything and adopted a draft Comprehensive Plan. In it, among other things, the Parks and Recreation Department presented their budget data. Two parks, ours and another north of the river, got the big red X. Both parks are undeveloped, that is, no play areas, soccer fields, or Frisbee golf courses. The city is tired of having to come out here to mow, which is all they’ve done about it since we first bought our property. Blackberries and English Ivy aren’t worth their time, apparently.
Back to the article about the Creating Housing Coalition. The online paper offers the reader the opportunity to react with an emoji. I saw three angries and one like. I shared an angry, because of how much I care about open space. Then it occurred to me that the “angries” could have come from locals who hate homeless people.
I’m not saying the “property value” argument didn’t leap to top of mind. Our neighborhood has its issues, more pros than cons in my opinion, but we have benefitted greatly from skyrocketing home values. I wouldn’t want to lose what has been gained, but even that’s not a sure thing. Someone could stick a pin in the housing shortage bubble any day.
Mostly, after seeing that our park divestment has a five year plan, I began to relax. I entered the City Council meeting schedule in my calendar. My neighbor ran for City Council, he’s as blue as they come, an Albany native, he knows city politics inside and out. He can help me figure out if there is anything the husband and I can do. Also I might be able to engage the interest of local environmental orgs.
Me, I wouldn’t mind a tiny house village nearby. I want people to have a place to live, dammit. What the CHC wants to do is commendable. Who can’t love Habitat for Humanity? It’s the trees I want to save, those noble oaks, pillars touching the sky, pines, cedars, Doug firs.
Me, I want to know what environmental impacts such a place would have. The village plan calls for garden space—hopefully a community garden could spring up there. Albany has only one. Where will they park their cars? Albany has a bus line a few blocks away, but there are no pharmacies or grocery stores within walking distance. To say our little neighborhood is a bit isolated from these amenities might sound funny, but for our shopping, we must drive. The city does supply bike-lanes—a good option for one person but maybe not for a family, and not helpful for people with disabilities.
At the risk of sounding “NIMBY-ish”, there is a significantly large vacant lot in north east Albany—walking distance to Costco and Fred Meyer, CVS, the Heritage Mall. It appears to be zoned half-commercial and half-residential. Why not there?
All this needs to be discovered.
Meanwhile, enjoy more winter photos, taken in my back yard. At least here is one small oasis for the wild things.
Check out my website for a short video from this morning–the rustling and cracking of ice melting from trees, with a special bonus Mastiff.
Below, first the swamp rose coated in ice. Below that the bright carmine leaves of winter radicchio.