Field-Burning Ban Boon to Bicyclists

11 Jul

The Willamette Valley is perfect for bicyclists. I’ve never ridden in a region that I’ve enjoyed more than here. But this will be the first time in ten years that I will recommend to outside bicyclists that they should come to the area in summer and ride.

This is the first summer that farmers are not allowed to burn their fields. Field burning is a primitive farming tradition usually associated with slash and burn cultures not modern agriculture. Except in Oregon, where some primitive ideas persist. Some days the valley would be choked with so much smoke that you could not see a few miles in the distance even from ridgetops. Seldom could you see the majestic Cascade Range to the east in the summer months when farmers torched their fields. They insisted that it works for them, so they should be permitted to burn, baby, burn.

Almost everyone else objected to the field burning. It was bad for Oregonians’ health. It lowered the value of nearby properties where burning occurred. Burning was deadly, being the cause of a multi-car pileup on Interstate 5 in 1988 that killed five people in cars blinded by the smoke. It wasted the time of first-responders each burn season when frantic folks new to the area breathlessly called in reports of fires because officials let farmers right on the edge of towns burn, baby, burn.

That attitude is no longer setting the rules. Certainly the grass farmers still complain that they have to plant different crops or maybe work harder after the harvest of their precious grass seed, which is sinking in value with the slower growth of suburbs with their tidy lawns and resorts and golf courses aren’t exactly in expansion mode at the moment. One might say this burn ban gives crusty old seed farmers the excuse they need to shift to more environmentally and economically astute products.

Whatever the farmers do, I can now whole-heartily recommend that bicyclists everywhere come and enjoy the wonderful Willamette Valley backroads that skirt numerous rivers, cross wooden bridges or float on ferries, scale Cascade highlands, climb coastal foothills, skim past rolling farms, and wind through forests. You can ride bucolic country roads from park to park or winery to microbrewry. The varied landscapes are wonderful to behold in summer, especially on a bike. And you can breath air without choking on the soot and smoke.

As I said, the Willamette Valley is a perfect place to ride in summer. Now that burning issue of the region has been resolved.


2 Responses to “Field-Burning Ban Boon to Bicyclists”

  1. Ken G. July 11, 2010 at 4:49 pm #

    Sounds lovely… Is your blog post to be taken as an invitation? 🙂

    • Mark Everett Hall July 11, 2010 at 5:02 pm #

      Sure thing, Ken. Summer is the Willamette Valley’s best time of year made better now that the air is clear. Full disclosure: Part of that clarity comes, alas, from persistent winds either out of the Gorge or off the Pacific. (This bicyclist’s only pet gripe about Mother Nature hereabouts.)

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