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Kingdoms of childhood falling to urban sprawl
By Dan Ondrasek
Fremont Argus, November 9, 2007
 

The developer finally has submitted his formal plan to develop the land just east of the Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont.

Despite intense outcry from this community to minimize development, he has merely shifted the puzzle pieces, rotating all 800 houses* east of Ardenwood and dangling schools and sports fields west of Ardenwood in front of the park.

The Coyote Hills and the Patterson Ranch lands west of Ardenwood are of incredible regional significance and will be severely and negatively impacted by this plan.

There are many scientific reasons for this significance, but if you want to know the most important, ask an 8-year old.

As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, I would hop over my fence into another world–through a thicket of walnut trees where kingdoms would appear. I would walk for a half a mile though should-high mustard plants. I could taste wild licorice on the side of a creek that would lead to the next field.

Red-winged blackbirds would serenade us through our day and frogs would take over at night. Wonders were everywhere. I would lift a rock and see an alligator lizard. I would lie in the mustard and watch hawks circle and clouds turn into dragons.

We were free.

We would run and hide and yell and laugh. We were the Knights of the Round Table.  We were The Fantastic Four. We were dinosaur explorers. These weren’t neatly manicured parks and fenced-in-schoolyards—they were the wild.

We had places that were just ours and we flourished.

This all came back to me last summer. As my 8-year-old son and I walked down a trail that bordered the Coyote Hills Regional Park and the Patterson Ranch, he grabbed a stick and proclaimed: “This is the Indiana Jones Trail.”

At that moment, I was his sidekick. And as we played through that afternoon, I thought back on those places where I became who I am today.

They are all gone.

One by one, our childhood kingdoms were marked with orange flags and would be neatly plowed, becoming quiet and lifeless. They are now urban sprawl, retail centers and roads filled with traffic. Even our childhood creek has been redirected into a pipe and now flows lifelessly under an expressway named after it.

Thousands drive by and over these places oblivious to the adventures and magic they once contained.

Few of these places remain in Fremont and none with the potential of the Patterson Ranch. But yet again, developers want to put up their orange flags and cement over the magic.

By not developing the open space that currently remains west of Ardenwood, this area would continue to protect the fragility of the Coyote Hills and maintain a buffer that has been there for hundreds of years.

There are so many scientific reasons why this buffer should remain. But for me, the most important is our children.

We wake up each morning and shake our heads of the headlines: Children shooting children; the lack of physical fitness; their separation from nature; their increase in stress.

And we ask ourselves:  “What has changed?”

I submit it is the lack of these truly wild open spaces, kingdoms—the magic of which only 8-year-olds can explain.

*Comment from Friends of Coyote Hills 

The Patterson family has already developed over 5,000 houses in Ardenwood/Forest Park, the densest part of Fremont. Another lot adjacent to the Coyote Hills Natural Area, the 15.5-acre Tupelo lot, was sold by the Patterson family for over $63 million for high-density development. Zoning in the current General Plan only allows 266 housing units on Patterson Ranch land, but the developer wants the General Plan amended to allow an increase to 800 housing units.

As pointed out in the article, the developer is dangling a school and sport field as part of the proposal in hopes of obtaining city council approval. However, the public safety risks associated with building on land at high risk of liquefaction in an earthquake and on a floodplain are not addressed.

Learn how you can protect Coyote Hills, "childhood kingdoms," by going to 2008 Fremont Elections

 

 

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