West Eugene Wetlands
June 2006: last gasp?
Date: Fri, 01 Mar 2002
Dear Jim Carlson:
I read in the Register-Guard yesterday that you are a bird watching enthusiast and walked along the C&O Canal National Historical Park when in Washington DC to lobby for federal funds for protecting the West Eugene Wetlands Park.
You may not be aware that your walk along the C&O Canal perhaps the nicest "linear park" on the planet would not have been possible if Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas had not led a campaign to prevent its conversion into a highway a half century ago.
Similarly, plans for the West Eugene Porkway are also unlikely to get past the drawing board. The money still isn't there. It would be the "dominant feature" (according to the BLM) of the West Eugene Wetlands, which would make a mockery of efforts to protect/restore these public parklands. It would likely extirpate the Endangered Fenders Blue Butterfly, requiring a "license to kill" under the Endangered Species Act. It would fuel ugly sprawl and overload the highway to Veneta, requiring even more taxpayer money. It would anger the citizens and groups that have spent lots of time and money to help make the West Eugene Wetlands plan a reality. The BLMs policy on "Prohibition on Disposal of Acquired Land" states that "BLMs trust relationship with [nonprofit] organizations would be jeopardized if the BLM entertained disposal of tracts they so diligently assisted with."
Please read Justice Douglass impassioned plea for nature over freeways and contemplate the peak of world oil production as you readjust West Eugene plans to recognize the reality that the WEP cannot be built. Please also help end the era of environmental schizophrenia, where the government claims to want to protect the environment even as it plans further destruction. This merely breeds cynicism, which is not good for a healthy, democratic society.
In the spirit of Justice Douglas, a number of citizens are sponsoring another walk on the WEP route in the West Eugene Parklands on Sunday March 17, St Patricks Day (to see the Green of Eugene) at 1pm, starting at First and Bertelsen (to see Bertelsen Slough, which needs to be transferred from ODOT to the BLM for inclusion into the West Eugene Wetlands Park). We will also explore the Amazon Creek / WEP crossing, the nicest area of Amazon Creek and the location where the WEP would have the widest right-of-way, more than required for four lanes.
I look forward to seeing ODOTs WEP highway reservations converted into the newest additions to West Eugene Wetlands Park.
January 3, 1954 Washington Post editorial
The renewal of official interest in the proposed parkway along the old C and O Canal between Great Falls and Cumberland will stir the enthusiasm of many Washingtonians...By utilizing the old canal no longer either a commercial or a scenic asset it is estimated that the parkway could be built for $100,000 a mile. The lovely Potomac Valley could thus be made available to sightseers, campers, fishermen, and hikers with little distraction from its beauty...
Douglas January 19, 1954 Letter to the Editor
Fishermen, hunters, hikers, campers, ornithologists and others who like to get acquainted with nature first-hand and on their own are opposed to making a highway out of this sanctuary.
...In the early twenties, Justice Brandeis traveled the canal and river by canoe to Cumberland. It was for him exciting adventure and recreation... It is a refuge, a place of retreat, a long stretch of quiet and peace at the Capitol's back doora wilderness area where man can be alone with his thoughts., a sanctuary where he can commune with God and nature, a place not yet marred by the roar of wheels and the sound of horns.
It is a place for boys and girls, men and women. One can hike fifteen or twenty miles on a Sunday afternoon, or sleep on high dry ground in the quiet of a forest, or just go and sit with no sound except for water lapping at one's feet.
I wish the man who wrote that editorial...would take time off and come with me. We would go with packs on our backs and hike the 185 miles to Cumberland. I feel that if your editor did, he would return a new man and use the power of your great editorial page to help keep this sanctuary untouched.
One who walked the canal its full length could plead its cause with the elegance of a John Muir. He would get to know muskrats, badgers, and fox; he would hear the roar of wind in thickets; he would see strange islands and promontories through the fantasy of fog; he would discover the glory there is in the first flower of spring, the glory there is even in a blade of grass; the whistling wings of ducks would make silence have new values for him. Certain it is that he could never acquire that understanding going 60 or even 25 miles an hour.
January 21, 1954 Washington Post editorial
We should not want it to be supposed that we are insensitive to the call of a warbler, the blush of buds in late winter, the crunch of autumn leaves under hiking boots, or the drip of water from canoe paddles...
We are pleased to accept Justice Douglas's invitation to walk the towpath...He has only to name the time and the starting point of the journey and to prescribe the equipment to be taken along.
note Douglas and a Post editorialist spent a week walking the length of the canal, and the Post reversed its stance, and opposed the highway. It is now part of the National Park system, 184 miles long along the Potomac River from Washington DC to central Appalachia. Its towpath is truly the Interstate Bicycle Highway System and a critical migration corridor for countless species.