The city of Kenmore has proposed a project at St. Edward Park which will improve the existing athletic ball park. A public hearing was held this past week to discuss the proposal. The well-attended event featured a powerpoint presentation which preemptively addressed many potential concerns with the project. For example, the improvements include the use of synthetic turf, and a thick underlayment is designed to contain rain and replicate a natural process.
The demand for athletic fields was demonstrated with facts and statistics. There are currently 200 parking stalls available, which the developers can expand at a later date if that proves insufficient. And traffic on the access road would be revised if necessary at a later date. The concern was raised that as Bastyr University is current owner of the ball field, it should not be presumed that will always be the case.
This public hearing was very well-attended by Kenmore residents. The majority of the audience was comprised of families: fathers sporting ball caps and young children wearing their baseball clothes. These Kenmore resident are hard-working family men (and some women) who love their families and merely want to live in a city where they can interact with their families in healthy sports.
What these residents may not appreciate is the fact that this scenario is opening a gate to further development of a very rare municipal natural park, which is a scenario repeated every day and worldwide, reducing and fragmenting remaining habitat. The 200 parking stalls soon grow too limited, and trees are deemed to be in the way. The space becomes expanded so that soon there are too few trees to provide shade. Waters warm. Algae blooms. Wildlife such as frogs, salamanders and small fish that keep keep disease-bearing insects under control, soon die off.
And this leaves people exposed to greater disease risk.
This is the concern of the World Health Organization, as well as researchers of global disease epidemiology, who report that the spread of infectious disease is influenced by human land use and particularly habitat fragmentation. To quote: “…But the findings also underscore the idea that human actions don’t just alter the environment — they can have a big impact on human health as well, a fact that should help policymakers create plans for land use that are more responsible when it comes to public health.”
That is the One Heath Concept. That is the explanation that viruses are now jumping species lines at an unprecedented rate; diseases are emerging carried by mosquitoes and tick-born pathogens, and the Ebola virus caused a near-pandemic proportion.
No, these well-meaning residents cannot be expected to know this, even though it would be nice if they did. But city officials should become versed in this – particularly if they have any control over land management. Proper stewardship of the planet, like charity, begins at home.
Susan Mailheau, Kenmore