Our View: We're for trees, but not for this initiativeFor the record, The Daily Republic is for trees. Their green canopies shade us, add beauty to our yards and city and are a precious resource here on the South Dakota prairie. That said, we cannot put our support behind an initiative that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot for Mitchell residents, one that is as controversial as it is confusing.
For the record, The Daily Republic is for trees. Their green canopies shade us, add beauty to our yards and city and are a precious resource here on the South Dakota prairie.
That said, we cannot put our support behind an initiative that will be on the Nov. 2 ballot for Mitchell residents, one that is as controversial as it is confusing.
The issue began swirling at the end of 2009, when city leaders were in talks with a private landowner about swapping a 10-acre parcel of wooded, city-owned land near Lake Mitchell in exchange for a privately owned building and lot near the city’s new soccer complex.
While it seemed reasonable at the time, many Mitchell residents reacted strongly, since that stand of ponderosa pines is not only beautiful, but rare around these parts. The deal fell apart.
Throughout 2010, Mitchell residents have worked to save that stand of trees from development. Eventually, residents gathered enough petitions to bring it to a public vote.
One problem: The initiative goes far beyond that wooded lot, to include all public land around Lake Mitchell. City officials say the wording on the ballot is poor, and say that if the measure passes, many acres of land and certain city-owned facilities could be classified as park land. That brings up myriad potential problems, the city officials say.
On the city website is a plan to run a bike path through the wooded lot and preserve many of the trees, which we consider an idea worthy of discussion.
It’s also important to note that during a forum held this week at Mitchell Technical Institute, proponents of this initiative were invited to speak along with City Council President Jeff Smith, who was present as an informational speaker. We are disappointed proponents chose to not participate, and their absence adds another layer of gray to this already murky issue.
Sometimes, good and well-intentioned people work hard to make changes to government policy. Sometimes, we all agree with a concept, but cannot come to an agreement on the minutiae that accompany it. We think that’s the case with that wonderful wooded lot along North Harmon Drive.
It’s unfortunate the tree enthusiasts and the council couldn’t have come together to write a proposal everyone can support. That didn’t happen, and here we are today.
Like so many in town, we, too, want those trees saved. We just cannot lend support to a ballot initiative that has created so much confusion and one that could lead to troubles with city-owned land in the future.