Open Space and Conservation in Oakley

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” The first line from Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” states what a lot of us feel. We don’t like walls or fences. Another line further along in the poem challenges us to ask, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know, What I was walling in or walling out”

True! There is something unlikable about walls and fences. They shut out, lock out, or lock in, obscure and cut off. More often than not, though, fences and walls are a must for many reasons including security, safety and privacy, but none the less a distraction on the countryside. That’s why Open Space is a good idea and not all new.

Open space reserves began in Europe, during the late Middle Ages and Renaissance periods, when monarchs allowed royalty to create large hunting preserves. These were called “parcs” in Old French. The term was later applied to common grounds in the center of villages. Centuries later, Yosemite Valley was set aside for recreation to the State of California, thus creating the nation’s first state park in 1864. Control of the park was turned over to the federal government in 1890. Over the years, federal and state lands continued to be set aside for national and state parks, and in 1970, California added the Open Space Element to the list of required elements in the General Plan.

The term can mean many things to many people. It may be public or privately owned land, a golf course, a school, a farm, a park, a cemetery, a trail along side a creek. It can include marshes, wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams. It can even be vacant lots, public plazas and public seating areas.

The end of the 19th century marked the beginning of a conservation movement in America. Naturalists and environmentalists lobbied the United States government to set aside vast areas of wilderness in the American West as national parks. Early advocates included John Muir and Theodore Roosevelt who said, “. . .The conservation of our natural resources and their proper use constitute the fundamental problem which underlies almost every other problem of our national life. ”.

Until recently there seemed no end to the wealth of natural resources available to us all. However, faced with the seemingly endless barrage of reporting on shortages of natural resources since the 1970’s the term “conservation” has become embedded in our culture. The term conservation came into use in the late 19th century and referred to the management, mainly for economic reasons, of such valuable natural resources as timber, fish, game, topsoil, pastureland, minerals, and wildlife

The urbanization of California has increased the pressures on farmland, water resources, wildlife, air quality, open space and many other resources. The U.S. Census Bureau says the state will have nearly 54 million people by 2025. Confronted with the demands of an increasing population, how can we provide the greatest benefit to the present generation while maintaining the potential to meet the needs and aspirations of future generations? To help answer this question a Conservation Element was added to the General Plan.

The purpose of the Conservation Element is to identify Oakley’s natural resources, particularly those that are finite and nonrenewable, and develop programs for their preservation.

California Government Code, Section 65302(d) requires that a Conservation element provide for the conservation of natural resources including, “…water and its hydraulic force, forests, soils, rivers and other waters, harbors, fisheries, wildlife, minerals, and other natural resources.”. It may also cover reclamation of land and waters, flood control and prevention and control the pollution of streams and air.

There are no towering stands of forests, nor large fishing fleets queued up in nearby harbors. No oil wells pumping “black gold, Texas Tea” day and night. Our shorelines are not cluttered with industries spewing pollutants into the river. Obviously all the resources listed in the state statue do not pertain to Oakley. Many of them will require a regional approach. However, Oakley does have its share of natural resources that can be conserved locally.

In Oakley’s General Plan these two elements have been combined. The Open Space and Conservation Element will primarily serve as an information document. It will consist of maps and tables containing information related to the natural resources and open spaces found in Oakley and policies and programs which will conserve them. The maps may show details of significant ecological areas, important agriculture lands and soil resource areas. They may also include information regarding the known and inferred habitats of some rare, threatened and endangered species. The tables may include lists of protected and uncommon plant and wildlife species in the area. Information detailing the changes in agriculture may also be found. An inventory of air pollutant emissions may also be available.

Open space can help preserve the quality of life and community character, reduce flooding, enhance property values, provide more opportunity for outdoor recreation, provide wildlife corridors and add a sense of community. By and large, open space can benefit cities both environmentally and economically.

About Kevin

Councilmember - City of Oakley, Manager of Mainframe Operations and Optimization – USS-POSCO INDUSTRIES, Co-Founder and Board Member - Friends of Oakley A Community Foundation, Commissioner - Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Board Member - Tri Delta Transit, Transplan, San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority and RD 2137, Advisory Board – Opportunity Junction
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