Friday, May 11, 2012

Future Hillsboro Stadium a Potential Field of Dreams?

Carfree life, especially the active transportation piece of it, has inspired us to become far more involved as citizens in our community.  Here is my response to the Oregonian article about a proposed baseball stadium in Hillsboro:
carfree family at Hillsboro Stadium, summer '11
I attended Monday’s information session, read the fact sheet distributed there, and raised concern that the “facts” presented provide no analysis of the project’s impact on community health.   At a glance, the proposed stadium presents both challenges to and opportunities for health promotion in our community.

  • Traffic – increases air pollution and risk of harm to cyclists and pedestrians along Evergreen Parkway and 229th Ave, especially at their intersection, and more so due to alcohol consumption at games.  With the proposed stadium opening in June 2013 and Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Medical Center opening in August 2013, we could expect a substantial increase in traffic along Evergreen Parkway between 185th and 229th Avenues.
  • Parking – encourages driving rather than active or mass transportation choices as well as destroys life giving earth by covering it with asphalt.
  • “Soft-drink pouring rights” and other food concessions – contribute to the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic, not to mention tooth decay and other nutrition related health concerns.
  • Alcohol from the "beer garden" – increases risk of traffic accidents, violence, reckless behavior, and a host of related health issues, plus demonstrates to young people that sports is more about entertainment than physical fitness. 
  • Merchandise, gas, and other concession sales – will most definitely increase trash and litter in the area.
you sell this crap to kids and families?
  • Off-season use – can offer physical fitness opportunities for youth and families.
  • Team involvement with the community – can provide encouragement, inspiration, and support for youth and families to be physically active.
GFRC's existing system of walking trails
At the meeting I was told that revenue sources such as fast food, soda, alcohol, and merchandise concessions were a necessity for the stadium’s economic success.  I maintain that these “necessities” will cost our community health more than they will earn in revenues.  The Council and community can work together to limit the community health challenges and enhance the opportunities of the new stadium in these ways and more.
  • Decrease parking to encourage active and mass transportation – Shuttle services from Orenco/NW 231st Ave Max Station, approximately 2 miles away, would not only limit traffic, but could encourage creative solutions such as bike-sharing, pedicabs, and walking groups.

    from PremierPedicabs
    Manufacturer of T.I.P.K.E. Pedicabs NW
  • Healthy food – Will the stadium really fail if it doesn’t serve junk food?  That would be a sad prospect in regard to childhood obesity, and I believe Hillsboro can set a better standard for our children.  Many parents will agree and appreciate the availability of healthy choices without the tease of unhealthy options.
  • Sustainable drinks – are easy when people are encouraged (provided incentives?) to bring re-fillable bottles, and filtered drinking water is readily available.
  • Alcohol – If it won’t be eliminated, a police and breathalyzer presence would be greatly appreciated.
  • Accessibility for youth – Safe bike/ped routes to the stadium from schools and residential areas such as Tanasbourne high density housing should be enhanced, as well as bike parking and facilities, to ensure safe travel and expanded use by youth and families during off-season.
  • PSA’s  –  The stadium can feature health-promoting messages about nutrition, physical fitness, and environmental stewardship designed to reach young people.
  • Innovative solutions – How about an area set aside for a food forest (instead of parking?), such as Seattle’s seven-acre plot of land in the Beacon Hill neighborhood to be planted with edibles.  Mmm…  I can almost taste the fresh fruit smoothies (served in place of soda and alcohol) now.
Designers of a food forest in Seattle want to make blueberry picking a neighborly activity.
The Hillsboro Stadium neighbors the prospective Tanasbourne area districts as detailed in the Tanasbourne Town Center Plan, including a “medical/commercial district.”  I propose an alternative vision of this area as an extended “health district.”  Instead of complimenting Kaiser Permanente’s medical services with commercial opportunities, let’s develop the area with a health promotion focus to serve the diverse population of individuals and families living in the Tanasbourne high density housing “residential district” and other adjoining neighborhoods.  As for the economic feasibility of this alternative healthy vision, I heard somewhere that if you build it, they will come.  As long as the Hillsboro Council maintains a focus on community health, the future Hillsboro Stadium is a potential field of dreams.  
our field of dreams is safely accessible by cycles or foot

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thanks, Hal!

We were surprised recently to learn that Hal Ballard had left the Washington County Bicycle Transportation Coalition, and regret that the March 26th article by Casey Parks, Hillsboro/Aloha community champion, slipped past us until now.  Below is our comment posted on the Oregonian, reprinted here with photos from the WashCo summer 2011 bike photo scavenger hunt.
Jacob helps with ride skills as Hal gives out free helmets to a crowd at the tent in Sept. '11
Our family first met Hal at WashCo on a cold, dark December night in 2010 after deciding to get rid of our motor vehicle. Hal personally outfitted the 7 of us with helmets at a price we could afford and took time not only to provide safety education, but also to talk with us about cycling's role in our carfree journey ahead. Throughout 2011, Hal was almost always our first point of contact at WashCo for repairs, reconstructs, and upgrades for our 7 second (or third) hand bikes. He encouraged our participation in Tour de Parks, the photo scavenger hunt, and additional bike education, all of which played a huge role in our confidence to travel greater distances to a greater diversity of locations by cycle. A couple of us also volunteered last fall at a school-based ride skills/helmet giveaway event, where we saw Hal at his very best inspiring kids of all ages and ethnic backgrounds to ride safely and joyfully.
safe ride to a joy filled photo at Hillsboro Stadium
Casey Parks picked up our story at the end of 2011, and now in 2012, thanks to Hal’s encouragement, Casey’s publicity, and a nominator unknown to us, we have accepted a 2012 BTA Alice Award and been credited with demonstrating “outstanding achievements and dedication to building the future Oregon where bicycling is safe, convenient, and fun,” charged with “shaping the future of Washington County and transforming attitudes about who can ride a bike,” and even been dubbed “suburban bike ninjas.”
with Hillsboro's finest prior to our ninja status
Although it is true that our decision to go carfree was largely motivated by a desire to be better environmental and community stewards, fewer living expenses have been an understated motivation. What’s more is that our household economic predicament was such that we knew when we chose to cut this “living expense,” second only to housing, we would not be able to afford a replacement motor vehicle any time in the foreseeable future. The decision to ditch the minivan was, for all intents and purposes, final.
cycling fuel from the Hillsboro Farmer's Market
Perhaps it makes sense to the reader now why we first met Hal on a cold and dark winter night to prepare for carfree life in the suburbs beginning at the wettest, coldest time of the year? Hal Ballard not only played a huge role in equipping us for our carfree journey, but also treated us with kindness, compassion, warmth, and respect at time when the journey ahead was still an unknown, scary place as much as a challenge to be embraced. We’re grateful to have Hal as an advocate for cycling in Washington County, and thank him for inspiring us to become active transportation advocates as well.
mass transit: an active transportation supplement
Annee & Moses von Borg
Hillsboro's Cycling Seven