Our Voice: Richland should agree to preserve Amon Creek, drop plans for road

April 24, 2014 

It's refreshing when conservationists and developers can come to a workable compromise. Now to get the city on board.

People who want to preserve open space and those who want to develop the land are philosophically at odds with each other. If they can come to an agreement, the hard part of the game should be over.

In this case, Tapteal Greenway and Hayden Homes each had their eyes on a piece of ground that butted up to the Amon Creek Natural Preserve.

The preservationist group was in the process of raising money to make a run at the property. They just hadn't made it yet. So they must have been especially disappointed when the proposed development was announced.

However, after months of negotiations, the two groups not only decided on a buffer zone that would meet each group's needs, but they agreed to split the cost of it.

The holdout now is the city of Richland.

For the sake of planning, the city wants an easement for a future road to cut across the preserve to connect the subdivision to Leslie Road and give one more east-west thoroughfare.

We agree with the city that infrastructure and roads should be part of the long-term planning strategy when granting building permits. We do not agree that the convenience of this particular road outweighs the value of preserving that land.

Residents of the new Clearwater Creek neighborhood may well have to take an extra minute or two driving around the preserve rather than through it. On the upside, the streets inside the subdivision will not be filled with nonresidents cutting through the neighborhood on the way to the store.

We see the city's point. This new development will put more people in that area and certainly will increase traffic on Clearwater -- and probably on Gage. At some point, the traffic may be problematic. But existing roads, including the new Steptoe extension, provide adequate access to the new development.

For the longest time, the Tri-Cities was a small community with plenty of open spaces. Conservation wasn't really a issue.

Now it is.

Those spaces quickly are closing and never can be reclaimed. Amon Creek Natural Preserve is the last of its kind in this region.

One of the reasons people choose to live or visit here is because of our many outdoor recreational opportunities. Planning around our remaining open spaces is better for tourism, attracting new businesses and our overall quality of life than developing every last parcel. It's a win for current and future residents.

Roads can, and should, be placed elsewhere.

Road kill along Columbia Park Trail near the Yakima Delta is clear evidence that roads do, in fact, affect wildlife and natural habitats.

Preserving our open spaces is a winning plan for the many animals that call the Tri-Cities "home" -- including humans.

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