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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

May, 2007



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West Marin Commons Moves Ahead
By Jonathan Rowe

A society reveals much about itself by the kind of spaces it creates. Local placemaking is a sign of society. When I lived on Manhattan's West Side, people sat on front stoops on warm summer evenings. In Washington D.C. it was Dupont Circle. In my wife's village in the Philippines, it was under a mango tree. Here in Point Reyes Station, we have the steps and benches outside the Bovine Bakery, the chairs at Toby's, the post office, and other places around town.
When such a social ecology collapses, the reason usually is connected to money. Too much can be as bad as too little. No one hangs out on front stoops on Manhattan's Upper East Side; money makes the streets go sterile. One of the suffocating things about a shopping mall is the way every inch is accounted for. There is nowhere for life to break through the concrete.

We are a long way from that here in West Marin. But the money is coming, along with an expanded national park right at the edge of town. There will be new pressures to become a precious tourist gateway, and another version of everyplace else. This is one reason that a number of us have established the West Marin Commons. We need to realize the we-ness potential of our spaces and places before it's too late.

In February some 60 of us turned out in the rain to survey our commons and consider how it needs repair. A team of local architects turned the resulting ideas into maps and drawings and presented these to a community meeting in March. There have been the inevitable bumps and organizational issues. But people are passionate about this special place; and on the need to attend to our social ecology along with the natural kind

We are beginning to focus on specific projects. For details contact us at [email protected] Our meetings and survey yielded many observations on the nature of this community and why people feel so strongly about it. We distilled these into a number of principles to guide our commons building work.

We are a working and living community. We are not a tourist attraction, a precious jewel box, a "gateway", or a museum. If people like to visit, that is fine. But it will be because of what we are, not because we are trying to please someone else.

We want to be self-sufficient to the extent possible. We encourage people to produce and buy locally, to share resources, reduce waste and use what we have.

We want especially to encourage local food production, and to enable farmers and ranchers here to thrive.

We want to tread lightly, to use no more than we need, to clean up after ourselves, and to leave no harmful residues that will spoil the place for anyone - or anything - else.

We need cars and trucks, most of us, but we do not want them to dominate our town. We want to calm traffic, create new paths for walking and for bikes, and prevent the town from becoming one big parking lot. We especially need safe paths for children so that they can walk and bike more.

We want to make more space for the conviviality and informal social interaction that make us a community

We see big changes coming, in regards to energy in particular; and we want to get out ahead of those, and help point the way for others.

We want to keep our traditions and our history, which includes our rough edges. We do not want to be prettified and buttoned down. We do want to encourage an awareness of our history, especially among children.

We want to encourage connection and sharing between generations. This includes shared spaces that old and young can occupy together. Both young and old have needs; perhaps they can help fill these needs for one another.

We value quiet and serenity, but we also appreciate the festive quality of community life. We want to encourage public art, street theater, festivals and music

We want to include everyone in this work, to the extent that they so desire. We want to reach across boundaries of age, ethnicity, language, occupation and the like.


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