Building Bridges by Building Trails
Nestled behind beautifully landscaped neighborhood communities is a 1.31 mile paved path made especially for bikers, runners, and walkers. The Westside Linear Park, one of 18 parks in McMinnville, offers multiple entrances off neighborhood roads where you can escape the cars and stoplights. Paths like this are difficult to find in many towns as they require a significant amount of planning, resources, and desire from the community. In McMinnville, we are lucky to have many choices of where to run, play, bike, and walk.
The reason paths like these matter, is because they bring community members together. If you live in one of the many neighborhoods connected to this convenient trail, you probably see your neighbors just a little bit more, walk your dog just a little bit longer, and spend just a little extra time outside. Even if you don’t use the trail, it's a welcoming feeling to look out your window and see people you know, and admire the well maintained grounds surrounding your property.
Being an avid runner myself, I enjoy these public spaces as an adult, but let’s talk about how great it is for kids. Though many of our neighborhood streets are complete with sidewalks on either side of the road, paths like this offer yet another way for kids to safely walk to their friend’s house, learn to ride a bike, and a place for them to play other than their own backyard.
In their 2017 Annual Report, “America’s Health Rankings”, the United Health Foundation states: “Children who grow up in neighborhoods with few neighborhood amenities are more likely to be obese than those with more neighborhood amenities, regardless of socioeconomic characteristics”.
It’s clear that having spaces such as the Westside Linear Park in communities encourages the health, socialization, and involvement of residents. I’m happy to be living in a place that values lifestyle and amenities for its citizens!
The round-about being constructed for the NW Hill Road Project is the first traffic circle in McMinnville. From a planning perspective, I am a fan of these traffic regulators because they are a natural way to slow down traffic while also allowing traffic to flow. From an environmental perspective, they are environmentally friendly as they do not use electricity (compared to traffic signals). According to the United States Department of Transportation, traffic circles are safer and more efficient compared to signals and four way stop signs.
Icing on the cake, or a necessary ingredient for Great Neighborhood Principles?
I have two school age children, and I have been to my fair share of kid’s birthday parties. When it comes time for the cake, I often cringe. A plate gets handed to me with a sliver of cake with a thick layer of icing on the outside, and if I’m (un)lucky, there’s a giant frosting flower. I consider the structure of the cake for a moment – a dry cake with that looks barely edible, with a disproportionate amount of too-sweet, oddly-colored icing. After eating only the cake, I notice the other plates in the garbage that are missing cake yet the giant glob of frosting remains. Sadly, I know those are not my kids’ plates and I’m in for a sugar-fueled rest of the day.
Then I start to think…why is the icing left so often? The frosting is often an afterthought to the cake - applied because it’s expected to be there or because the color is pretty, making the cake and the icing so frequently disparate. Then I ask, what if the icing was considered at the same time as the cake? Would a layer of frosting inside the cake make it less dry and more balanced? Would a natural color complimentary to the cake make me want to go back for seconds? If the flavor of the icing related to the cake, would it make for a better experience and more enjoyable party? These are the things I think about, and why I’m no fun at birthday parties.
All too often I have seen the landscaping on any given project treated as the obligatory icing on the cake - something that could make the cake look better and taste better, but is often done haphazardly and without consideration to the cake experience as a whole.
I’ve been studying landscape architecture or practicing landscape architecture for longer than I haven’t, and am now bringing this experience to the McMinnville Planning Department. As the Planning Department launches its effort to identify Great Neighborhood Principles that will guide and shape the way McMinnville’s neighborhoods look, feel, and grow for years to come, it struck me how interwoven the concepts I’ve learned and put into practice as a landscape architect are in many of the guidelines being considered as Great Neighborhood Principles. Landscape design, when integrated thoughtfully and carefully, can contribute to a neighborhood’s aesthetics, safety, and sociability. It can contribute to a population’s health and well-being. It will even contribute to the economic success of a commercial district. Are these important Great Neighborhood Principles? I think they are, and in future posts I hope to explore how thoughtful landscape design, when integrated into the process rather than just being icing on the cake, is an essential ingredient for Great Neighborhoods.
"Great Neighborhood Principles" will help us explore what makes a neighborhood in