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News from the Friends of The Bernard Biological Field Station of the Claremont Colleges
City Council Candidate Statement

Opanyi NasialiOpanyi Nasiali

I support the continued preservation of the Bernard Field Station as an educational and community resource. Its large size makes it a valuable habitat for native plants and animals -- an oasis of natural open space in a built-up urban environment.

I was born and raised in rural Kenya. Surrounded by wooded areas, we took this natural setting for granted. My young friends and I would frequently go on “adventures of curiosity” into the equatorial rain forests where the rays of the sun barely penetrated the layered tree canopy. While in the forest we listened to the many birds singing, even as we maintained vigilance to avoid creeping creatures, especially poisonous snakes such as the Black Mamba. This was an environment both as peaceful as it was potentially dangerous for youngsters. For us, it was an exciting and unfettered encounter with nature.

Then I came to the U.S. and encountered the San Fernando Valley of virtually wall-to-wall buildings gridded by highways and the rest of the urban infrastructure. This was overwhelming and alien to me given my rural upbringing. After graduating from college, Kathryn and I eventually settled in the Inland Empire, following jobs and affordable housing away from the dense and expensive metropolitan area. The past 25 years have transformed our part of the San Gabriel area from one of ample open space, groves, and vineyards to urban sprawl. Open space seems to be evaporating.

I reflect on my experience to make the point that we in Claremont are very fortunate to have a community that values open space as a natural resource. Because of the foresight and work of members of our community going back many, many years, we have managed to acquire and preserve significant tracts of hillside land. The recent passage of Measure S with more than a seventy percent plurality reinforces once more our community’s commitment to open space preservation. For me personally the undeveloped chaparral and hillside reminds me of the “bush” where I grew up. It’s not tropical rainforest, but it provides the same opportunity for personal renewal and encounters with nature, and its continued presence and health helps strengthen our ecosystem. I am gratified that my work in the campaign to pass Measure S will result in preservation of that natural resource for future generations.

The Bernard Field Station and the hillsides to the north are complementary. My opinion is that the need for open space will only increase. The solutions to the challenges of growth by the Colleges will be found in the land already developed and in the less sensitive land to the east. As a council member, I would ensure that these types of solutions, which are consistent with our new general plan, received favorable treatment by the City.

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