EDITORíS DESK: A look at the easement idea
Going into the May 22 meeting about a proposed conservation easement for Bear Creek Regional Park, the idea seemed like a slam dunk. County Parks already has easements on much of its land, so why not give similar protection to one of its most popular areas? Certainly, the vast majority at the meeting shared
that view, with pledges afterward of money and volunteer time and a survey reflecting overwhelming support.
Still, it's worth giving some thought to the minority view, arguing that it's not right for current county government officials to implement legal restrictions that could tie the hands of their counterparts in the future. After all, as noted by Sallie Clark, a current county commissioner (and leader of the Bear Creek easement effort), the county has certain state spending mandates and owning parks is not among them.
So yes, placing a conservation easement on Bear Creek Regional Park could limit the options for future commissioners, should they face a budget crisis as bad or worse than the county faced in 2008. As you might recall, the sale of park land was actually proposed then, with staff gauging that Bear Creek's 573 acres could be sold for $14 million. The idea never came to a vote, although major parks service cuts occurred that have yet to be restored, such as at the Bear Creek Nature Center. What would future commissioners do in a similar plight, with park service "fat" no longer available to cut? Let's leave that question open for a second. Have you ever spent any time at Bear Creek Regional Park? Hiked, biked, stood by a stream, run a dog, or played tennis, soccer or basketball? Sell it and it's gone. Me, I have faith in the future. Those folks can figure something out. I truly don't believe they'd hold it against the people now for preserving so fine a public park.