Sunday, June 13, 2021

City Council, June 14th - Difficulties for Path Concept at IOOF Pioneer Cemetery

On Monday Council looks to approve and execute a Quitclaim Deed to a disputed alley segment adjacent to John Street and the northern border of the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery. That specific action is related to a more general status report on a path concept, and the tone is very pessimistic, accenting barriers more than anything. This time there is not much substantively to contest, as the facts seem pretty clear. The more general frame still seems muddled, however.

Apparently the City did not own any right-of-way

Behind the Quitclaim Deed, it turns out the "vacation" in 2012 of an alley segment was premised on errant information. Closer research on deeds and titles turned up that:

The area in question was never dedicated to the public as right-of-way and has remained unopened. Therefore, the City never obtained any legal or equitable property interest in the land.

That's got to be a little embarrassing.

See previously:

Additionally, in a separate and related Staff Report, the City turned up two additional hurdles.

The first is that any new path connection must be ADA compliant. This seems reasonable, and I do not have anything to add. It is disappointing to those who just asked for a small gate on the north side, but that might have made it too much a secret, private amenity for immediate neighbors. A connection should be more widely available.

The second is more complicated, and I am not sure that the way the City is invoking it is without some other subtext.

Under state law, an impacted Native American Tribe has the right to object to the work. If the objection cannot be resolved, the SHPO must deny the permit and work will not be allowed to proceed. Based on input from representatives of the region’s tribal nations, there are cultural, social, historical, traditional, and spiritual implications of a City project designed to facilitate people transiting through a cemetery. These implications are present regardless of whether excavation occurs.  The City must consult with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, and Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation prior to taking any further action on a path through Pioneer Cemetery. Depending on the tribe and the City’s proposal, one or more of the tribal nations may file an objection, effectively terminating any project.

I suppose as a straight-forward reading of State law, it might seem to be neutral. But it does not appear the City has actually asked if Tribal nations actually object to anything. As framed here, the Staff Report is a little fear-mongery, oriented to a hypothetical rather than to a known objection. Is the City using the prospect of Tribal objection as a way to duck a difficult problem?

It is at least possible that the proposed casino is running interference, and that the way the Staff Report here is structured might be indirect evidence that there is a politically tricky negotiation underway.

May 28th City Manager Update

More than this, there is no obvious or clear alignment through the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery specifically, even if we were able to handle all the objections in popular opinion and culture as well as find a minimally disruptive excavation plan.

The best option remains a route using the current graveled drive through City View with a direct connection on the north boundary inline with John Street. Apart from the current lack of interest at City View, at least in theory the City still could negotiate a mutually agreeable price for an easement.

This is a strong reason not to remove the concept of a path connection from the TSP. Conditions will change and at some unknown future moment, it may very well be possible to make a connection. We should not foreclose on that.

For the moment, acknowledging that there is no way forward for an IOOF Pioneer Cemetery alignment, we should think more about what risks we tolerate and the whole of our risk-assessment.

Other Muddles

Right off, we have an autoist blind spot, and continue to underestimate the disruption caused by car travel, especially relative to the disruption invoked by travel on foot and on bike.

Cars "transiting": Around Memorial Day 2012

Cars compacting the soil, probably harming root systems of trees, and polluting the air with exhaust and tire and brake dust, sometimes even driving over curbs and bollards? No problem!

People on foot or on bike? Big Problem!

Driving vandalism - via Twitter

There's a fundamental unresolved contradiction here. It's not likely to get resolved any time soon under our prevailing autoism, but the tension and inconsistency is there.

In the past calendar year, there have also been several instances of trees falling and damaging cemetery monuments and grave sites. I know of a tree in July or August of 2020, a tree in December 2020, and more trees in the ice storm. 

Trees and cars have caused a lot of damage.

Another big episode of tree damage

In multiple ways it remains difficult to believe that people on foot and people on bike are really the great threat to the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery and its values. We can have appropriate reverence, security, and low-intensity travel at the same time.

In the meantime, while we continue to try to figure out how to deal with this big barrier between River Road and Commercial Street, we should advocate for more signage and interpretive material at the IOOF Pioneer Cemetery.

1 comment:

Susann Kaltwasser said...

ADA is usually seen as a barrier to development, but in the end the reality is that we all benefit. Wider paths and smooth surfaces are good in general for all ages. The reduction of any incline is helpful for everyone too. So, I do not think we should ignore that factor when talking about public access. Beside, the City of Salem is already under order to address all ADA related issues with existing walkways. I am sure they don't want any more problems in that area.

A paved path would also mean that people in wheelchairs could access the cemetery. I know that currently few people can attend a funeral if they are in a wheelchair. Last time I was involved in arranging a funeral the question was asked if anyone was in a wheelchair and if so it was an additional cost.

To get the correct grade, I assume it would requiring either digging down or ramping up. Both could be difficult in that area. So often we don't realize how such details can extend the problem.

A lingering issue for me is the fact that Salem does not currently have a standard for alleys or pathways. If we had a standardize code then it could help resolve some of the issues for this and future walkways/paths and alleys. Paths are generally a good thing, but as I have stated before, they need to be well designed so that they function with the least amount of problems for safe passage. In a good transportation plan, paths, alleys, bike lanes and streets should all be equally well designed and safe for users.