Striking a compromise between man and nature

Sometimes it's hard to find the right balance when it comes to development and nature.

Thanks to organizations such as the Tapteal Greenway Association and the Rivers to Ridges Open Space Network, the Tri-Cities has big chunks of habitat preserved in the middle of town -- a rather uncommon feature in cities.

One common thread between these two organizations is Scott Woodward, president of both groups.

Woodward's name has been in the paper twice in recent days, both times to call foul on local development.

Woodward played prominently in an article about Richland putting in a new sewer line through the Amon Basin preserve and a second article about the Port of Pasco's riverfront business park.

We admire the work Woodward and his groups have done. Members lobby to preserve valuable open space. They educate the community, and they build and maintain trails so that the open spaces can be enjoyed.

Despite our high regard for Woodward and his colleagues, we weren't surprised to find ourselves on the opposite side of his recent protest over the port's decision to remove dead and dying cottonwood trees at Osprey Point in Pasco.

Finding the right balance between development and preservation is guaranteed to create conflict. Sometimes friends will disagree.

At issue is a two-thirds of a mile stretch of the riverside path lined with trees, some in danger of toppling or dropping limbs. In addition to posing a safety hazard, the trees obstructed the view of the river from the port's new office buildings.

Port officials opted to remove trees from half that stretch and leave the other half alone.

Woodward said the entire stretch should have been left to nature.

We disagree.

Time and again, planners tell us that we need to make better use of our greatest asset -- the river. Exactly what that means is open to debate, but development has to be part of the mix.

It's reasonable to remove dead and dying trees to make the new business park more attractive to tenants.

It's also a good compromise to leave half the stand in a natural condition.

Woodward has a valid point when he reminds us that dead and dying trees provide an important function in the ecosystem.

He also is right to remind us that once these ecosystems are destroyed, there is no way to get them back. We need to be cautious when uprooting or cutting down what has taken almost 100 years to grow.

Mid-Columbia conservation groups have earned a reputation for taking a reasonable and level-headed approach -- which isn't the case in every community.

That credibility continues to help the Tri-Cities maintain an enviable quality of life.

We need voices like Woodward's to remind us of why we love living here now -- and in the future.

But we also want a vibrant and thriving community with economic opportunities now -- and in the future.

It's a compromise. And compromises can be hard.