Law Student Helps Medford Create an Open Space Plan

By Nicole Ginley-Hidinger

   Open space can be almost anything: parks, natural wetlands, riparian areas, which is the surrounding land around waterways, even golf courses can qualify. In fact, Oregon law states that open space is “any land area so designated by an official comprehensive land use plan adopted by any city or county.” In other words, open space is anything designated as open space. It’s fairly broad.

Oregon Department of Land and Conservation created Goal 5, which acts as a framework to determine what land should be designated as open space and how an area should be planned and zoned to conserve resources. Still, there is a lot that is open to interpretation.

That’s where KC McFerson comes in. McFerson is a law student and a Masters student in the Regional Planning program, and is using her backgrounds in both to help the City of Medford assess what land they want to call open space and how they want to protect it in alliance with Goal 5 and other open space laws.

“The goal with this project is to help the city identify areas and parcels that exhibit certain characteristics of land that they would like to protect,” says McFerson. “I’m working with them to find out which categories of land they would really like to protect the most.”

During her project, she will create a prioritized list of how Medford should go about protecting land in a particular order.

“Within the law there are suggestions for what ought to be protected, such as riparian areas and wetlands,” she says. “Ultimately it is what Medford deems valuable.”

For McFerson, there is more to preserving open space than simply complying with the law.

“We have a history and a love of what’s wild,” she says. “Being able to retain pieces of that within our urban areas is vital to our spirit.”

At the end of the year, McFerson will present a legal analysis to the city that will help them move forward in designating land use and protecting their open space.

“Medford is a group of really excited city workers who are trying to make their city better,” she says. “I’m really excited that they teamed up with SCI because SCI is a powerhouse for increasing innovation in cities.”