Give city planners something to say yes to
Last updated 3/14/2023 at Noon
Winters are prime time for reading.
I found myself deep in a Wendell Berry book of essays this week and couldn’t help but connect an anecdote to all the hand-wringing in town about change and development.
“We left the hunters behind and went down past a green grainfield where cattle were grazing and drinking at the waterside.
They were not disturbed that the river had come up over part of their pasture, no more troubled by the height of today’s shoreline than they were by the height of yesterday’s.
To them, no matter how high it was, so long as the ground was higher it was as ordinary as a summer pond.
Surely the creatures of the fifth day of Creation accepted those of the sixth with equanimity, as though they had always been there.
Eternity is always present in the animal mind; only men deal in beginnings and ends.
It is probably lucky for man that he was created last.
He would have got too excited and upset over all the change.”
— Wendell Berry, The Rise, 1969
In taking this one step further, albeit in far worse prose, all the conversation has been incessantly about change, but not in a positive, productive fashion.
Instead, all the chatter is about trying to stop projects and improvements and how it’s all wrong.
What I see is a city planning group trying to plan for and manage change to the best of their ability, and a lot of people talking about how it’s wrong and trying to stop it.
The city planners aren’t creating change, they’re trying to help us manage it.
Change is coming from the 8 billion-plus people on Earth.
Change is coming from the 60.7 percent population growth in Oregon since 1980 and the 227 percent growth in Deschutes County over the same time span (usafacts.org).
There’s no stopping people from procreating and moving. The challenge is, what are we going to do to plan for it? And by that I mean the bottom rung of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (food, water, warmth, rest, safety, and security). And individually, how are we each going to invest in this community during those microscopic moments of the day-to-day to help hold on to that experience of Sisters that we all love? And by that I mean the upper levels of Maslow’s model, which really comes in how to treat each other. Human history is best marked by groups of people coming together to accomplish something that everyone can benefit from.
When I read the stories in The Nugget earlier this year of how the school district was formed and the schools built, it checked the same box. While it sounded scrappy and a big endeavor at the time, it’s inarguably a positive for Sisters a generation later.
So what are we working on today? All the conversation, while generally respectful, is resistant and oppositional. Can we look at what should change with the growth coming and work on that? Can we put our energy in that direction, please? Do we all have to pick up a shovel and work on the same project? No. But instead of knocking over somebody else’s sandcastle, or — as the recent story out of Peterson Ridge shows — mess up some volunteers’ trail sign, maybe you should try to build something, too. Go make something to make this town better. That’s how it seems this got here in the first place, because the people before us tried to build something great for others.
Now it’s our turn. Give the city planners something to say yes to.