Reader Don French didn’t get much right in his Sept. 9 letter. (“Clean Water or Two Acres of Trees?”) The choice that EWEB had at 40th and Patterson was not just between backup water or trees, but to rush ahead and bulldoze before enough opposition mounted, or hold a public hearing so that all 20,000 rate payers and many thousands more Eugene residents could debate the issue and discuss alternative sites and plans.
These two acres of trees in the southeast — a rare, native oasis of madrone, fir and oak, some as old as the city itself — are not insignificant, as French implies, given the ravages of climate change, overdevelopment and our alienation from nature. The site created a source of cool air, oxygen, biodiversity, water retention, beauty and much more that benefited everyone, not just the people who have homes nearby, most of whom are not elite, as he labeled them.
I met several renters and hardworking homeowners who live adjacent to or within a few blocks of the site who had never been contacted about the project before the whole thing blew up. The lesson that must be played forward here is the need for more transparency, communication and democracy in agencies that make decisions related to our tax dollars and long-term wellbeing.