The beauty of the Olympic Peninsula never fails to amaze all who come to the area. A small section of this beauty is the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. Mountains, water, trees and open spaces invite one to partake in many outdoor activities. Trails abound on which to hike, bike, ride and walk. There is an amazing bounty from the fields. Boating is active here, as are crabbing and fishing. Breathtaking beauty, the excitement of the wind surfers and the quiet paddles of the kayaks are a pleasure to watch. Wildlife invites observation and photography.
Sequim and Dungeness Valley residents are lucky to have open space for all these activities. Open space is disappearing in many parts of the world. Open space is desired by private individuals and public entities. Private ownership allows individual horticultural expression and enhances economic and visual value. Public ownership enhances the sense of well-being while providing recreational opportunities and parks on a larger scale. Open space helps maintain quality of life. It is one of the main reasons people move to this area after living in an urban environment.
Sequim and Clallam County have planned parks as a way to preserve open space. The Sequim Parks Master Plan states: “To preserve Sequim’s small town charm, the City of Sequim will continue to maintain and enhance its current level of park quality and the ratio of parkland and open space to population.
Parks will vary from the small and cozy homeowner-maintained type to larger city-maintained neighborhood and community parks, and will include trail systems, natural areas and regional sport facilities.” This plan will work only so long as land is available to keep the desired ratio of parkland to population. It is imperative that the city and county plan well.
Children today have largely given up playing in and exploring the great outdoors. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the average American child now spends seven hours, 38 minutes per day watching television and playing video games. The National Parks Service has been enhancing its youth awareness program to introduce children to open space, thus hoping to create a future generation of those who appreciate the wilderness. Unless youths grow up to care for and respect the outdoors and open space, the landscape and the way of life in this country will deteriorate.
With a population that is increasingly urban or suburban, the rural setting of the Olympic Peninsula affords a unique opportunity for daily living in proximity to nature and outdoor activity. Population growth continues to place exceptional development pressure on a static amount of land. According to one projection by the U.S. Census Bureau, “the nation’s population is projected to increase to 392 million by 2050 — more than a 50-percent increase from the 1990 population size.” There will be no increase in land to support this growth.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Department of Forestry, 6,000 acres of agricultural, forest and other lands are disappearing each day. The economy has slowed this rate somewhat. As farms and open land disappear, one group that is seriously impacted is the horse industry. There are nine million horses in the United States, many of them right here in this community. The Equine Land Conservation Resource asks the question of horse owners and riders, “Where will you ride, drive, compete, race, raise foals and grow hay in the future?” The North Olympic Land Trust is trying to answer similar questions. All users of open land, be they walkers, hikers, equestrians, shooters, ATV riders, organized sports enthusiasts, bird watchers or contemplative thinkers, need to ask where they will participate in these activities in the future.
A comprehensive plan is a guide to the future development of a community. It is important that such a plan allow the community to grow and function in the manner that is needed and desired by its residents. The planning process should ask the following questions: Where are we now with regard to the use of our land? What do we value? What do we need? How do we get there?
This area can be developed beautifully without filling every open space. The City of Sequim is developing a survey that will include questions as to how and to what extent the citizens of the greater Sequim area use existing facilities, including our parks, trails and open spaces. When the survey arrives, please participate. A good, comprehensive plan is needed.
Where will you participate in sporting activities or just find a quiet bench in the park to sit upon if all available space is filled with buildings and parking lots? Let’s make sure Sequim remains a place of rural character as it grows and continue to provide scenic, tranquil, and noise-free islands for all.
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” — John Muir, conservationist.
Patsy Mattingley, Sequim Citizens Park Advisory Board and Equine Land Conservation Resource Board of Directors
Editor’s note: Patsy Mattingley served as the Sequim Gazette’s guest editor for the week. Her “duties” included assigning an article, writing the editorial and discussing other news stories with staff. Mattingley “won” the week’s work through a donation at the annual Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula auction. Many thanks go to Patsy Mattingley for her help and support of the Boys & Girls clubs. — MD