We must learn to fly before we can SOAR

September 24, 2009

Intentional or not, that seemed to be the signal I was getting today at a conference in Camarillo devoted to talking about a thing called SOAR.

SOAR, the Save Open Spaces and Agricultural Resources program, is a series of environmental and transportational proposals designed at making Ventura County a more sustainable place to live. Residents voted it in about a decade ago and most towns have implemented its strategies to a certain extent.

In a nutshell, it basically says two things: 1. Sprawl is getting out of hand and smothering whatever open space we have left; and 2. that auto traffic congestion has become so bad that our atmosphere is being killed.

The plan, for those on board,¬† is to implement smarter ways of developing how we build our houses and buildings, and to find ways to get cars off the road (i.e. public transportation) so Ventura County doesn’t go to … well, hell in an ecologically unfriendly hand basket.

Of course, SOAR needs to be a concentrated effort because it’s a region by region kind of thing. No two cities, no two counties, have the same infrastructure needs or demands.

All of this can be done within reason, according to panelists at the event, if everyone is on board for it to be concentrated. That is to say, hardly anyone outside of the committed few are on board.

“The one thing all Venturans agree on is they don’t want Ventura County to become the San Fernando Valley,” said Rick Cole, Ventura City Manager who spoke at the event.

According to Cole, consensus is there, yes, but county residents haven’t yet rallied together like people did in Sacramento, Denver, or Salt Lake City, where SOAR strategies have been firmly in place for some time.

Darren Kettle, executive director of the county’s transportation commission, listed in detail the copious alternative transportation options people can choose from in Ventura County: bus, rail, etc.

However, less than one percent — 1 PERCENT — of daily commuters in and out of Ventura County take public transit.

It’s a sad fact of life that’s been ignored here far too long, in an area far too apathetic about many a thing, from gay rights, to immigrants’ rights, to saving our environment.

According to a rep from the Ventura County Civic Alliance, three SOAR workshops have already been held, and more are planned. Attend the meetings and get involved, because like riding a bike or learning to fly, we need to take baby steps first.

Not to mention that biking or flying are a hell of a lot more eco-friendly than choking the air with our exhaust fumes.


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