Previous Guest Editorial in the Nugget Newspaper, now being resubmitted 7-13-2015 to Friends of Black Butte Trail

Paving Independence

It is a beautiful 4th of July, Independence Day. I started the day by riding my bike into town to enjoy the morning celebrations that have been occurring in our country for over 200 years. After riding back home, I sit on my porch eating watermelon in a peaceful gorgeous part of our country and reflect on two subjects with commonality: independence and paved bike paths. The topic of independence in the Sisters area has been around since Sisters was founded; the topic of paved bike paths is relatively new. Many caring and dedicated people have worked together cooperatively with the Forest Service to organize a small system of paved trails to allow our citizens beautiful, safe and friendly access from our neighboring communities to our town. Recently, there have been several letters to the editor addressing paved bike paths. A few of our citizens have been against these paved paths. It is to those people who are against these paved paths, and others with similar feelings, to which I would like to address my thoughts.

What does independence mean to you? On this Independence Day, most of us first think about our country’s freedom; a freedom that came at great cost. On a more personal level, independence for many of us means not relying on others to aid or assist us. Most of us are fortunate to be able bodied and independent. A few of us are not quite so lucky. Among those few are men and women of our Armed Forces who have been injured serving our country and have given up their independence so that the rest of us can enjoy our freedom.

For those of us who are still blessed with physical independence, we have 1.8 million acres of land in the Deschutes National Forest to enjoy in a myriad of ways. For those with disabilities, whatever the cause or level of disability, they often can’t join us to experience the beauty and wildness of being in the forest. This could be a disable vet, a citizen who has had a hip or knee replacement, a person who needs a walker or a cane, a teenager who has suffered an accident, or a child with a birth defect. Those of us lucky enough not to be in one of these categories right now, could find ourselves or a loved one there tomorrow.

Wouldn’t it be nice if each of us, who are so lucky to have complete physical independence, could give something to those having difficulty with physical independence, so that they could enjoy a small part of our forest-which is also their forest? Paved bike paths could do that. The amount of area the proposed bike paths occupy is minuscule in comparison to the total area of the Deschutes National Forest. Let’s share this tiny bit of forest so that people with disabilities can enjoy it independently. I’m asking those of you who are against these paved paths to consider people with disabilities when you are choosing to speak out against the paved paths. These paved paths would give our citizens who are disabled a new way to get back and forth to town while enjoying the forest and getting exercise, something we take for granted everyday in the vastness of our forest.

Mark Thompson