City needs better communication


The South Hills Trail is a place in Sweet Home that many people value and enjoy regularly. In January, approximately a dozen trees fell on and across the trail. Instead of eliminating only the downed trees, a unilateral decision was made to clear-cut that entire portion of the trail, nearly eight months after the fact. 

On Aug. 11, the annihilation of a portion of the South Hills Trail began and within five days the job was completed.

I was shocked to wake up to this unexpected demolition. I immediately started making phone calls to find out who was in charge of this project and attempt to ascertain the intended scope.

I contacted individuals at the Sweet Home Parks and Recreation office, the City of Sweet Home office, the Sweet Home Trails Committee, the Sweet Home Tree Commission, the City of Sweet Home Beautification Commission, the Sweet Home Economic Works Director, the City Planner’s Office, a City Council member, and The New Era.

After communicating with these connections, I learned that none of them knew anything about this project. Not one of them.

Finally, I went to the people who were removing the trees from the trail to find out who had hired them.

I eventually discovered that the lone offenders were two individuals in the Public Works office and the city manager.

After lengthy conversations, these three individuals discussed their reasoning and the plan they had come up with to solve the issue of the downed trees.

Seeing part of the South Hills Trail clear-cut was tremendously disheartening. But more unsettling was the fact that only a few individuals made this decision, without feeling the need to inform the public of their plans.

I asked why they did not notify the citizens of Sweet Home about the project, and one individual answered there would be, “too many opinions and too much pushback.”

The individuals who made the decision about the South Hills Trail conferred with a local timber company but did not seek input from possible volunteers or the people who use the trail each day.

This lack of respect for the citizens and taxpayers of our community is appalling. Had they consulted with the residents of Sweet Home, they would have most likely proceeded with the same or a similar plan.

However, had those of us affected by their decision known in advance, it would have caused much less contention and led to a spirit of understanding rather than offense.

I attempted to express my concern about this inexcusable lack of communication at a recent City Council meeting, but was not heard by most individuals there.

One councilman mansplained, “The trail is not ruined, everything changes, and it will grow back.” Then, with a cavalier attitude, he defended the action by asserting that the city did not need to check with the public “every time they fixed a pothole.”

His analogy was decidedly lacking. The South Hills Trail is not a pothole; it is a beautiful nature trail. One single council member apologized to me and stated that he would ensure that the area would be replanted. I am grateful that he, at least, appeared to have heard some of the concerns I expressed.

As members of this community, we should be respected and valued for our opinions and ideas because we are the individuals that have chosen to spend our lives here.

We want Sweet Home to feel like it is our home and that we have a say in what happens here.

I expect that in the future, those involved in city government, both employees as well as our mayor and the City Council, will be transparent with the citizens of Sweet Home whom they serve and represent.

In the spirit of openness, the offices involved in this decision should share with the public how much money they made from this project and give information about where the money gets spent.

A substantial portion of these monies should go towards replanting and repairing the damaged portion of the South Hills Trail. I expect that in the future, the offices of Public Works and the city manager will not make decisions in secret.

Instead, in the future, I expect them to value the input of those they serve and be sure that nothing like this ever happens in secret again.  

Lana Holden

Sweet Home