Landowners, small farmers and urban park enthusiasts exercised their First Amendment rights today (Wednesday) with a march on Springfield City Hall. They want the city to immediately abandon plans to place an industrial zone near the entrance to one of the largest urban parks in the world…Buford Park. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert was on the march route and has this story.
"No Industrial Pisgah" supporters started the march from Seavey Loop near Burford Park. This land is currently zoned for farms and rural housing. However, the City of Springfield wants to expand the urban growth boundary and rezone for industrial use. The proposed expansion includes 249 acres between Interstate 5 and Mount Pisgah.
Homeowners and small farmers have been protesting the March participants are on foot, tractors, and horses. By the time they cross the bridge to Springfield, they are about 80 people strong.
Charles Stewart is a land holder on Seavey Loop and the march organizer. He's been actively protesting the proposed expansion area.
Stewart: "I've always assumed that our victory was certain from the start."
One small victory for the group was the "11th hour" decision by the City of Springfield to issue a permit for a small citizens' march. Stewart says the city also removed conditions that could have charged the group over $1,600 for police protection and insurance. He says these concerned citizens are exercising free speech in hopes of getting elected officials to change their minds.
Stewart: "It's just a matter of time until Springfield comes to see things the way we do. There are half a million visits to the park. We are the sole urban entrance, not just to the park itself and its 2,400 acres but to actually what is now 5,000 acres. There are easily 200,000 stakeholders right in Springfield and Eugene who love Mt. Pisgah. They understand that that is not the place to site industry."
Rhel (Rachael) Herrick rides atop a huge Welsh Cobb named Lord Percy.
Herrick: "I live on Seavey Loop. I have a horse farm. And we do not want the industrial zone to come in. We will fight the full time to stop it."
Charles Stewart says Springfield's mayor and city council members were invited but declined to attend the march. When protesters arrive at City Hall, they placed boxes of vegetables and cut flowers on six empty chairs. "Peace offerings," says Stewart.
Springfield city officials are still forming a committee to create a vision for the proposed expansion area. The city council and Lane County Commissioners will jointly make the decision. The timing and size of the proposed urban growth boundary will be decided after a public hearing next year.