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There's no doubt that one of the glories of Corvallis is its network of open spaces throughout and surrounding the city.

Now, though, with efforts under way to add three big parcels of land to that network - and financial pressures mounting when it comes to the maintenance and upkeep of the land we already have - the time may be coming when the community needs to make some tough decisions about exactly how much it values that open space.

As Gazette-Times reporter Bennett Hall noted in Sunday's edition, the Greenbelt Land Trust is at work to negotiate the purchase of 587 acres of the Bald Hill Farm property from landowner Andrew Martin.

At the same time, the Land Trust is at work on another parcel as well, some 160 acres owned by Jack Brandis on Dimple Hill.

Yet a third effort is under way: Friends of Witham Oaks is continuing its work to raise money to buy 90 acres of open space off Harrison Boulevard.

All three efforts involve multimillion-dollar purchase prices.

Now, pull back a bit and examine the wider picture: At the same time these efforts are under way, the Corvallis City Council is exploring the possibility of setting up a special taxing district to help finance some of the operations for the city's financially stressed Parks & Recreation Department.

While the prospect of such a district passing muster seems unlikely, the proposal underlines the fact that the purchase price for these land parcels often isn't the only cost; there's upkeep and maintenance and a variety of other costs as well.

The Land Trust has a solid record in the mid-valley; in fact, the organization rarely gets the thanks it's due for its work. The Friends of Witham Oaks, created in response to plans to build housing on the land there, obviously doesn't have the track record of the Land Trust, but it's made some real progress toward its fundraising goal.

But is there enough money to go around? And is there enough money to properly maintain these parcels? These are important questions that need answers.

We're most excited about the possibilities raised by the Land Trust's tentative plans for Bald Hill, which would combine the land's agricultural heritage with conservation values. That property also has links to the Bald Hill and Fitton Green trail systems, and an additional trail connecting the property to Lupine Meadows is envisioned.

But that's just our first take. The final ranking of these projects rests with this community, and where it chooses to donate its money and time. The Land Trust has done wonders with patience and persistence, and those attributes are vital. But so is cash, and that's in shorter supply these days.



Managing Editor

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