Casey Kulla: Preserving parks is up to us

Rusty Rae/News-Register##Deer Creek Prairie Park northeast of Sheridan.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##Deer Creek Prairie Park northeast of Sheridan.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##Deer Creek Prairie Park northeast of Sheridan.
Rusty Rae/News-Register##Deer Creek Prairie Park northeast of Sheridan.

Do you have a favorite spot in Yamhill County? If you’re like me, your favorite spots are probably outside.

Maybe you walk your beloved dog in a particular park every day and grow to depend upon the time spent there together. Or, you have a special beach along the Willamette River where you go on hot days to park yourself half-immersed in the river and chat with friends.

Perhaps it’s the narrow path in the woods that you walk just after the first heavy rain of fall, eyes trained on that spot where you just know chanterelles will be growing. If you are more of a crowd kind of person, maybe it is the bench downtown from which you can watch what seems like the whole world streaming by.

Let’s consider, in the face of threats to sell off public spaces, this: All of these places, whether intentionally built parks, natural open spaces or unintentional public spaces, are special. They depend on us using and protecting them.

Parks are special because they are places for everyone — places where all of us can be present in the ways that we choose, whether we want to be alone or with others, be active or just sit around. Two of my favorites outside Yamhill County are Silver Falls State Park and the beach at Siletz Bay in Lincoln City.

Everyone seems to visit both places. You can stroll along and hear a dozen languages. We’re all there to enjoy the place, whether accompanied by a barbecue or a long run.

The great thing about parks is that each of us makes of the park what we want. They provide us with a blank canvas for our imaginations. We can do, within limits, what stirs our hearts.

Parks are also special because they are good for us.

While some of us are lucky enough to have a spacious backyard, or a very large field fronting a river, some residents don’t have outside space to call their own and others don’t want the hassle of tending a private patch of green. That’s where parks come in.

For all of us, parks and open space grant us the gift of health. We raise our heart rates, keep our joints limber, work our muscles and build mental wellness.

Having a space that belongs to all of us where we can heal, grow, build up, stretch out and see that bigger world is deeply healing. Part of the healing comes from being around other people.

Parks are special places because they build community from disparate humans.

Parks and open spaces belong to all of us, but it is way more than that. Parks build community in each interaction we have with one another.

Many people live segregated lives, primarily interacting just with others of the same income, job sector, recreational activities, religious life and age. Parks are desegregated spaces, leading us to interact with people we don’t know or people we know only from a park they frequent — people we might never see otherwise.

Kicking the soccer ball back to the group of girls while you walk your dog, nodding in acknowledgement of their humanity when a homeless neighbor walks by, and giving a toddler a wink as you jog past — all of these interactions help build the sense that we’re in this together, that we have a stake in this place.

Parks are special because they represent a shared responsibility. Like the village greens of colonial New England, they belong to all of us, thus should not be exploited by any one of us.

By our taxes, by our volunteering to pick up garbage or clear a trail, even by our very presence, we take individual responsibility for the parks we share with others.

Sometimes, open spaces and public land seem like they don’t belong to us, that the public agency that manages them or private business that logs or mines them has a greater claim.

I believe it is important to remember that public lands belong to us. We decide what happens on them. They remain our responsibility even if a public agency is tasked with managing them.

Parks are also special, as are other public lands, because they provide space in our human-centered lives for the habits, homes and buffet tables for other creatures. Pollinators like bees, magical creatures like butterflies and mythical-seeming mammals like wolverines, spotted recently on Santiam Pass and along the Columbia River, all find sustenance and breeding grounds in the same public lands that bless our lives.

We can choose to make space for wildlife by leaving land wild and untended, by avoiding pesticides, by giving wild creatures distance to live their lives. In Yamhill County, we have parks traversed by rare wild animals, and in McMinnville, wild spaces like the Cozine Creek corridor are home to beavers and so much more.

Parks are special places because they represent the future we want. We can be intentional about that future by imagining and then putting into physical form the places we want to exist.

If we are not intentional, parks and open spaces will still represent that future, because parks belong to all of us. Their future is inextricably tied to our future whether we make conscious decisions about it or not.

There are so many opportunities right now to share your values and your vision.

The city of McMinnville is in the midst of the Parks Master Plan process, and city staff wants to hear from you. Go to www.mcminnvilleparksplan.com and share your values.

Chehalem Park and Recreation District has a master plan progressing for its Bob and Crystal Rilee Park. up on Parrett Mountain, and is hosting open houses to hear from you. See https://www.cprdnewberg.org/general/page/bob-crystal-rilee-park-masterplan-open-house.

If your love is the Coast Range public forest, the U.S. Forest Service and is seeking public comment right now on the protection of mature and old growth trees. The torrent of federal comment can be overwhelming, but an actual person still reads and considers each comment.

If you want more trails or better signage or an end to timber quotas, make a comment. Go to https://www.climate-forests.org/take-action.

Finally, the Yamhill County Commissioners are threatening to sell off county parks rather than take care of them. See https://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=final-county-budget-hearing-set-for-thursday--1686678023--46358--. If you believe public lands should remain in public hands, e-mail them at bocinfo@co.yamhill.or.us.

Our parks and public lands are treasures, but they rely upon us to tend them. They depend on us to muster the vision for what they can be.

Guest writer Casey Kulla farms with his wife, Katie, on Grand Island, on the Willamette River near Dayton. A former Yamhill County commissioner, he also works on state and private forestry issues with the conservation organization Oregon Wild. He loves walking in the woods with his family, particularly in Oregon’s heavily timbered Coast Range mountains. 



Can I get a guest commentary if I write an article trashing the commissioners? I realize that in the drawer of the NR's liberal knives the sharpest one doesn't always get pulled out, but Casey would have done better sticking to the Progressive Yamhill talking points.


From my viewpoint as Chair of the Yamhill County Parks Board, the Yamhill County Commissioners are NOT threatening to sell off county parks rather than take care of them. Rather, they are interested in finding ways to pay for needed maintenance and improvements. The suggested link in the above article doesn't work for me. It should be: https://newsregister.com/article?articleTitle=final-county-budget-hearing-set-for-thursday--1686678023--46358-- The last paragraph regarding the sale of Crabtree Park is inflammatory misinformation promulgated by the News-Register, which does not reflect the full perspectives of the parks Board, county staff, nor the BOC in this matter.


Maybe Waste Mgt and Hampton Lumber would kick in to repair the culvert….

Bill B

One of the things that brought us to Yamhill County was the number and quality of the parks. We haven't hit them all yet but we are close. Clearly we could use more, not less.


If our county commissioners do what they want we won't have any parks in the county.

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