Part 1: When Heads And Hearts Don’t Agree
Occasionally issues arise that expose competing values in a community. Things usually start off with an idea that sounds innocent enough, but it ends up being a problem for somebody else, and poof, it's suddenly very complicated. Let’s please not suggest that “fixes” are easy, because that just ends up insulting everyone who has an opinion. Some things can't be simplified.
One such issue in Salem has recently gotten my full attention because it’s personal for me on BOTH sides of the issue. It has captured my head and my heart, and it's anything but simple. I’d better explain.
This past Memorial Day Weekend, the Statesman-Journal ran an article about a proposed bike path that would be adjacent to our historic Pioneer Cemetery in South Salem. One might wonder why there isn’t a path there already: We’re talking about putting in a very short ribbon of asphalt to connect two neighborhoods that are currently “walled off” by the Pioneer Cemetery (and City View Cemetery right next door).
Shouldn’t really be a big deal, right? I mean, the path would offer some much needed relief for north-south riders who must currently use Commercial Street. Picture a fast-moving, narrow arterial that moves buses, trucks, and gazillions of cars between downtown and the burbs and you get the picture: “calm” is definitely not the word you’d use to describe this thoroughfare. I would not ever recommend Commercial to novice riders. A safer option is long overdue.
But like I said, it’s complicated. There’s at least one other side to this issue: While there may be a logical place to put the path, the people who are committed to the safety and well-being of the cemetery are worried. Unfortunately, we do have to consider the vulnerability of things like monuments and gravestones these days. The “Friends of Pioneer Cemetery” have expressed concern over the proposed location, and the City appears to be considering “vacating” the pathway. As I understand it, that would effectively end the proposal. No pathway.
It’s important that we strive to see all sides of a complicated issue. We must seek first to understand, then be understood. We are better as a society when we honor each others' perspectives, even when they differ from our own.
As a cyclist I want to advocate for a safer path through this part of my community. I worry that without it, cyclists are at risk.
But I also have a personal connection to the Pioneer Cemetery that’s pretty important to me as well: