February 12, 2011
This is a tough one, made exceedingly tougher by procedures that encourage organizations to be formed to “fight” for members with bikes, dogs, walking shoes or an abiding love for woodland creatures. Instead of discussing how to balance all these legitimate interests, we seem to have orchestrated a demolition derby where everyone sustains damage and no one emerges as a “winner.”
Perhaps, the perception of carnage is derived from the interest group representing organizations whose institutional purpose may be better-served by crying “foul” than by a willingness to compromise. However, another possibility is that our open space decision-making process has historically demonstrated a tendency to respond to the loudest or last voices heard. It may be that the loudest and last voices heard fully and accurately represent majority viewpoints in our fair city and, despite the fact full-throated democracy is a contact sport, our past decisions got it right in the end. If so, there is no escaping these master plan update soul-searching, mind-numbing, patience-testing forays.
I wonder, though, how much of the heat is generated by managing public access to our open space so as to prevent the harm done by 5% of the users who don’t seem to have a clue – whether on foot, with dog, or on a bike – concerning how to behave in mixed company. We should manage for the 95% and, whether due to ignorance or a conscious disregard for the experiences sought by others, develop effective ways to educate or banish the rest.