Sometimes it seems as it Oregon is paved with chewing gum. So many people come here, or just plan to pass through, and wind up sticking around. Margaret Martell was 21 years old, on her way to Alaska. When she got to Bandon, recognized Oregon’s call, and stayed. That was 45 years ago. In the interim Margaret became Meadow. She married, had children, and married again. She was Director of the local Community Health Canter, then Interim Director at several others. Now she works on contract with the State in recruitment and placement. “I’m good at transitions, at helping groups get through difficult times.”
Meadow and her husband Barry bought a small acreage near the Illinois River west of town. They traded in the manufactured house on the lot for one that suited them better. They planted a garden, raised chickens, and leased out a few acres to others. They liked their neighbors.
In the early 2000’s the economic boom pressed close. A developer platted a 65-lot subdivision next door; laid smooth bitumen up against their gravelly road; installed curbs and sidewalks and hydrants. This precise land arrangement became their call to arms. Meadow and Barry and four of their neighbors banded together. Not to fight what had been done, but to preserve what remained. Five households, owning 65 acres, crafted a set of Covenants and Conservation Easements to preserve the land closest to the river from further development. They protected wildlife corridors, designated pastures and orchards, gave each other easements and limited development to five houses total – one per family.
More than ten years in, circumstances have changed for several of the covenant members. Meadow’s husband Barry died. She’s getting older and finding it more difficult to care for her gardens. She would like to add a second housing unit, a place she could offer someone in exchange for helping her. Her neighbors, Prasna and Shohoma, are building a new house with passive solar features. When it’s finished, they can repurpose their existing house to a barn or outbuilding, but they cannot rent it out. The covenants crimp their ability to use their property as they might like, yet they understand that ‘development creep’ will undermine their broad intention. So far, the group has not relaxed any restrictions.
The adjacent subdivision floundered. A half dozen houses were built before the crash of 2008, few after. But it coalesced the five conservation members into action. As a result, their community is both more formal and stronger.
How will we live tomorrow?
“The first thing I had to deal with in your question is the ‘we’. It comes down to individuals. Then I struggle with tomorrow. It comes down to today. This moment is all we have.
“We have to care and respect each individual. We need to live in partnership with nature, or we won’t survive.”