Fall: The Season of Optimism

Fall energizes my mind. The crisp, clear air cranks up my optimism. I imagine Marin being all that it can be. Are you with me? This autumn as I drive, bike and hike around the county, here’s what I visualize happening in Marin’s not-too-distant future:

Let’s have a place to come together: In 1957, architect Frank Lloyd Wright said of the county Civic Center he was designing: “It’s hoped that Marin’s citizens, cognizant of this significant contribution to their lives, will work together toward the completion of this entire master plan.” Now, 50 years later, it’s time to do just that. This will probably mean proposing and passing a $250 million bond measure. Nevertheless, in these heady days of autumn, I believe it’s possible. The bond would result in a 2,500-seat modern auditorium for concerts, performances and the perennially sold-out Marin Speaker Series. The project would also include adequate rooms and halls for Marin organizations to host luncheon and dinner meetings, permanent facilities for year-round farmers’ markets, lawns and landscaping complementing Wright’s existing Civic Center structures, and improved ingress and egress from the 101 Freeway. So what if the measure means residents pay a hundred dollars extra a year in taxes? Marin is one of the nation’s most affluent counties, but when it comes to getting together as a community, we’re a tad impoverished.

Let’s reduce Marin’s ecological footprint: Marin residents talk a good environmental talk, but so far we aren’t walking it. I envision that changing someday soon. Our current eco-footprint is a clodhopper. Statistically, each of us requires 27.4 acres of the world’s usable land and water to support the way we live. Italy and France leave far smaller eco-footprints. Worse, Marin’s eco-foot size is one of the biggest among the nine Bay Area counties. So for starters, this fall let’s voluntarily refuse plastic bags whenever they’re offered and instead produce a reusable bag at the checkout counter. Increasingly, I’m seeing that happen. Thin plastic bags are a by-product of oil, they don’t decompose and cannot be recycled (they belong with garbage, not in the recycling bin), and each one will exist for more than a hundred years, many as litter—the stuff that kills wildlife, clutters our highways and fouls the environment. Yes, that flimsy plastic you are given (and accept) at the market or drugstore does all that. And while rejecting plastic, let’s all make our next car a hybrid, put more solar panels on more roofs, buy renewable energy for our homes, use energy-saving light bulbs, create cleaner air and healthier kids by utilizing Marin’s Safe Routes to Schools program and, whenever possible, walk or bike rather than firing up the family SUV. These days, I’ve been imagining that the next time Marin’s footprint is measured (autumn of 2010) we’ll slip easily into “something less than a size 20.”

Let’s unify Marin County: In the 1970s, plans were afoot to turn Sir Francis Drake Boulevard into a freeway as it crossed the county into West Marin. Obviously, that did not and should not have happened. However, fall’s longer shadows have me thinking there’s a middle ground. Let’s be honest: Although Marin is one county, it often feels like two. West Marin, a setting of intense beauty, has two national parks, several state park locations, miles of windswept desolate beaches, numerous lodges and inns, incredibly good restaurants, historic communities and spectacular opportunities to camp, kayak and hike. Yet the taxpaying residents of Marin are often disinclined to visit this part of their county when faced with the narrow, curving, long, and often-potholed road many must take in order to get there. However, talks have recently started regarding an $7 million project to widen Sir Francis Drake as it passes through Samuel P. Taylor State Park and adding top-quality bike lanes as part of the package. It’s a five- and-a-half mile segment that would go a long way toward unifying Marin County, making West Marin more accessible to the bulk of its population. On these bright sunny mornings, I imagine the concept will sail through the environmental processes and become a reality by 2009.

Of course this is all wildly optimistic, but it’s fall and that’s my point of view.

What’s yours?

E-mail jwood@marinmagazine.com.