Good to engage owners along trail
Yamhelas Westsider Trail, a 17-mile recreational trail proposed from McMinnville to Gaston, has officially entered its NIMBY stage.
NIMBY, of course, stands for “not in my backyard.” The acronym, often used as a pejorative label, looks and sounds like an expression of scorn, but actually, “the NIMBY syndrome” is as American as proverbial apple pie.
It’s no surprise that there’s some opposition to a recreational trail by owners of adjacent private property. Yamhelas supporters, to their credit, recognize the importance of engaging those property owners. They know that many a project has failed because that kind of communication was mishandled, or simply didn’t happen.
We’ve supported the visionary trail project as a potential gem in a recreational network spanning Yamhill and Washington counties. However, as the process unfolds, we’ll try to avoid using NIMBY as an adjective of derision.
NIMBY, as one source states, is a term “usually employed by those parties who are in favor of the event or development in question.” However, people resisting some kind of neighborhood or community project may embrace the label.
I’ve seen NIMBY campaigns related to shopping centers, low-income housing, parks and roadways, tall buildings and neighborhood group homes. Locally, nothing says NIMBY more clearly than the battle over expansion of Riverbend Landfill.
Almost 40 years ago, one of my first civic projects involved a fledgling effort by McMinnville Jaycees and city officials to develop a park-like walkway along McMinnville’s Cozine Creek. That project disintegrated when homeowners along the creek said “NIMBY” with an exclamation mark.
Consider a 2012 statement by Nick Stanger, who led an Indiana campaign to require a half-mile setback for a huge industrial wind project in Indiana: “If protecting my individual property rights and values makes me a NIMBY, then I wear the label proudly ... I am not anti-wind power per se; I am, however, anti-bad ideas and anti-wasteful-government spending of taxpayer money.”
The fact is, every one of us, given the right circumstances, is a card-carrying member of the NIMBY club.
As we editorialized last year about the trail project: “Local communities should recognize the potential of the Yamhelas trail, consider how destination bicycling could be incorporated into the local landscape, and … continue paving the way for successful development of the project.”
That support continues today. But still, we also encourage careful response to and engagement with those who raise property rights concerns about the project.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.