Ridge Preservation Deserves Support

Ridge Preservation Deserves Support

The Tri-City landscape is defined as much by the hills above as the rivers through it. Rattlesnake Mountain. Jump Off Joe Butte. Red Mountain. Flat Top. Horse Heaven. Badger Mountain. Most mornings, slanting rays of sunlight cast shadows that bring the creases and folds along the vast slopes into stark relief. In the evenings, the hills form dark silhouettes against the streaks of sunset’s flaming colors, form and light each enhancing the other.

Subtle changes in the arid plant life clinging to the hillsides mark our changing seasons. The vistas, when we stop long enough to consider them, are dramatic. And endangered.

The fact is, the ridge lines won’t all survive the community’s growth untouched. Homes and roads will reach higher with each surge in construction. But it’s possible to preserve parts.

Benton County commissioners took a step in that direction earlier this week, voting 2-1 to endorse efforts to save 575 acres atop Badger Mountain. Commissioner Max Benitz and other opponents to the proposal aren’t making sense. The rights of landowner Sheldon Shore aren’t threatened by the plan. He wants the property sold as a single parcel and preserved as a park.

Taxes aren’t involved, even though the purchase of park lands is a legitimate use of public money. Instead, the $675,000 deal, being brokered with the help of the nonprofit Trust For Public Lands, depends on donations and grants, not local tax dollars.

What’s more, the impetus isn’t coming from Washington, D.C., or even Western Washington. The drive comes from local hikers who want to ensure that the open spaces they enjoy aren’t entirely lost to future generations.

Opposition is as baffling as the views are inspiring.

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