Citizen's View: Expanded Park Would Serve a Higher Purpose

Published in the Lake Oswego Review Thursday, February 2, 2017

by Natalie Henry Bennon

I never really knew how pretty Lake Oswego was until I started house-hunting. We were looking for a home where we could have access to nature every day, and we found and moved into a home in the Hallinan Heights neighborhood. Not only do I enjoy George Rogers Park as often as possible, but nearly every day I get to stroll through Hallinan Woods while walking my kids to elementary school.

Hallinan Woods is an existing 3.75-acre natural area owned by the City. Every day, dozens of children walk this path on their way to and from school. Dozens of residents jog or walk through, listening to the creek flow and the birds chirp. Hallinan residents say they love this little corner of the neighborhood. It is their daily dose of nature, which research shows increases happiness, improves health, reduces hyperactivity symptoms in children and reduces nearsightedness.

Shortly after moving here, I learned that a good chunk of this lovely woods is up for sale and slated for new homes — the Yates Street property, which totals 2.08 acres and sits adjacent to Hallinan Woods. And while I understand the need for new homes and how that will increase our property values, I also understand that people move here for the quality of life, including access to nature, and so our natural areas also increase property values. Developing this property next to Hallinan Woods will diminish the woods overall and decrease our quality of life — that thing that makes Lake Oswego special.

This property could serve a higher purpose. We could create a nature park here. The woods are directly behind Hallinan Elementary School, which is currently building an outdoor classroom next to its garden. The outdoor curriculum could include the woods.

There is a lot of precedent and support for this. Friends of Tryon Creek has developed a watershed program that brings all Lake Oswego fifth-graders to Tryon Creek State Natural Area. The program includes required homework to be done near their school site, and includes a broader watershed curriculum that is, according to the Friends group, perfectly suited to Hallinan Woods — particularly the neighboring property slated for development, which includes part of Hallinan Creek, a wetlands and a seasonal pond.

Hallinan Woods has an active friends group. Over the past decade, the City of Lake Oswego, the Friends of Hallinan Heights Woods and LO residents have worked diligently to make Hallinan Woods a healthy, natural area by removing invasive plants and adding more native plants. This improves wildlife habitat, stream health, water quality and air quality.

By adding the Yates Street property to Hallinan Woods, we could create a nearly 6-acre nature park with modest trails, picnic tables and informational kiosks. It would continue to serve as a daily dose of nature for many Lake Oswego residents. And, by including it into Hallinan Elementary School's outdoor classroom curriculum, it could become a place of real experiential outdoor learning.

More homes make sense in some parts of our city. But this property is perfectly situated to serve a higher purpose. The Coalition for Hallinan Nature Park is asking the City to slow down and listen to neighbors about the future of this property.

Please join us in making Hallinan Woods even better ­— for our children, for wildlife, for water and for our Lake Oswego way of life. Please join us in creating Hallinan Nature Park. To learn more and sign our petition, visit hallinannaturepark.com.

Natalie Henry Bennon is a resident of Lake Oswego.

Link to Lake Oswego article online here