EDITOR’S DESK: You too can be an open-spacer
In they came Sept. 8, the “usual suspects.” It's like old home week, every time there's a public meeting about open space preservation, because those familiar faces are sure to be seen. Who are they? Well, I could throw out a bunch of names - people like Bob Johnson and Dave Dombach, who build or repair
public hiking trails so often they'd be rich if the work paid anything; Don Ellis, a historian and sometimes-gadfly who helped prod the city into eventually buying Red Rock Canyon eight years ago; or Kent Obee, a former international diplomat who has found a new calling for his skills at the local level, as a volunteer
advocate for things outdoors.
When I arrive at such meetings (for example, this last one in the Westside Community Center on Red Rock Canyon, White Acres and Section 16) and look around, my first impression is how many people there are - 100 or so, filling the seats at a dozen tables. But then a second thought hits home, that it's really not that many at all, that what I'm seeing is, give or take a few score folks, pretty much the driving force of what makes open space happen here.
Did you ever think about it like that? I get the impression that some citizens believe setting aside and maintaining scenic, sensitive lands are just chores that governments automatically take on. But it doesn't really work that way. There can be lots of pressure to develop nice properties for expensive homes; all three of the above properties nearly became subdivisions. (And, in all fairness, it should be recalled that those "evil developers" are actually adding to the local tax base when they build while those turning them into open space are ensuring that they contribute zero. So to my mind, at least, if a property is going to be "saved" it better the heck contribute mightily in aesthetic or recreational ways.) In any case, my main point is that much of our city's open-space experience - and we're especially blessed with that on the Westside - bears the fingerprints of a relatively small bunch of nature-loving volunteer citizens.
Don't feel as if it's a closed club, by the way. With city and county parks agencies as financially strapped as they are, they're leaning on volunteers more than ever. You don't need to be a tree-hugger either. Maybe just a masochist.