Sunday, February 25, 2007

Another Sunday with the Presbyterians, this time at my place. The group that I spoke to last week came by to visit our Zen Center, again as part of their Interfaith Outreach. We talked about various aspects of Zen and Buddhism, and I gave them a brief orientation of meditation techniques.

My friend Arthur was giving the dharma talk that day, and although the Presbyterians couldn't stay, I did.

Later, I met with some neighbors, our City Councilperson and the Commissioner of Parks to look at a property in the neighborhood that the City is going to buy as parkland. A poll of the neighborhood indicates that most are in favor of the park, although there are some vocal dissenters. The probable alternative to parkland is most likely new development, and no one in the neighborhood wants to see new condominiums go up there.

The biggest controversy is in the nature of the park. The neighborhood has expressed its preference for passive use, and the existing tennis courts and pool on the property will therefore be demolished. However, there are plans to build a 15-foot-wide, concrete, mixed-use trail through the property for joggers, runners, bikers and rollerbladers that will connect with a planned network of similar trails throughout the area.

Neighbors immediately abutting the park have expressed the expected concerns about crime and of the trail providing a conduit for the "criminal element" into their backyards. I'm sympathetic, but more concerned about the loss of greenspace and the increase of paved ground in this urban environment.

The property we looked at today is actually high ground, but the surrounding parks and public areas that the trail will connect with are floodplains and wetlands. More concrete, more pavement in this sensitive environment will lead to increased habitat loss, less infiltration and hence more flooding, and greater impact on a sensitive ecosystem. My opinion is we should tred gently in the surrounding area and minimize our footprint, and construct a low-impact trail for hikers and joggers built of pervious materials.

These views were expressed and well received, as were discussions regarding the path of the trail to minimize its impact on neighbors. Time will now tell whether we were heard or merely given lip service.

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