I'm so thankful for my time with Owosso Main Street. Eighteen months inside the professional placemaking community and many afternoons in Adam's office have changed me.
(Adam, as in Adam Zettel, as in our brilliant and generous city planner. If you're reading, thank you for teaching me so much.)
I've learned to see.
I see land use policy and urban planning everywhere I go. I scan for sidewalks, street widths, bike lanes and multi-use buildings. I size up tax bases, appraise the local economies and hunt for local businesses.
I see community infrastructure, or the lack thereof, everywhere I go.
I drive down a five lane highway sandwiched between strip malls and parking lots; I see loneliness and childhood obesity. I see a community in cars, separated from each other and alienated from their bodies. I walk downtown, I see connection and vitality and health. I see friends running into friends, walking and biking and talking and smiling.
Everywhere I go, I see.
And in Oregon, there is a lot to see.
Oregon, where urban form is crafted intentionally; the land of urban growth boundaries; where dense neighborhoods of single family homes sit crisply, shoulder to shoulder with open space and farmland.
Oregon, where mass transit connects dense urban centers, mass transit that carries its patrons through spreading hills and soaring mountains on their way from city to city; where highway 101 crawls up the coast, unmolested by fast food and Holiday Inns.
Where the handiwork of man and the handiwork of God sit side by side.
Oregon, where a 25 minute drive from Portland to Canby takes us over one growth boundary, into open space, over another boundary, and back into town.
City, country, city.
A similar drive from Detroit to Mount Clemens never escapes the suffocation of unchecked sprawl.
Beautiful Michigan land, lost to unnecessary development.
Land turned fallow by the overreaching arm of a concrete mixer.
I mourn for Michigan, my beautiful state. I mourn for Detroit, my future home. I mourn for what we've lost, for what we never built.
Today, I mourn. Tomorrow, I build.
I'll never give up, because I know what's possible.
We can do so much better.
We must do so much better.
I know that we will do so much better.