Turning the conversation up
By KRISTA GROMALSKI
Our region is experiencing an unprecedented period of rapid growth and development at a speed well beyond the planning resources of our municipal officials. Large tracts of land, mostly private hunting clubs, summer camps and agricultural properties, which had for generations been thought safe from development, are coming onto the market. The value of the land has escalated to the point where there is now tremendous pressure on many families, hunt clubs and not-for-profit organizations to contemplate selling.
We have also experienced our share of local skirmishes over cell tower proposals and clear cutting, and witnessed the influence of superstores such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot on our rural landscape; and we know that more Big Box developers and McMansion builders are speculating on the profits to be made.
The most tangible visual alterations to our landscaperandom sprawl beginning to litter Route 6 between Milford and Hawley, PA, more wide driveways cut into forests along Scenic Byway Route 97 in NY, clear cuts and development along ridgelines, or blinking cell tower lights competing with the night skys starsoften trigger a sense of loss that is difficult to channel toward positive action.
What, then, can we do in the face of intimidating and powerful market forces to preserve our high quality water, lush forests, quaint back roads and quality of life while enabling more of the community to share in the prosperity that such growth can bring?
Often when viewing a multi-faceted problem or challenge it is helpful to focus on one aspect in which we can make a difference and affect change. In this case, it is our sense of community.
We need to join together at this time to recognize that although we are a diverse population, we are also neighbors with a common interest in the future of this place that we love. We are connected by our relationship to the land and the water we share.
We need a strong citizen movement to combat the powerful market forces and major corporations that threaten our areas rural character. The momentum we need is found in each other, neighbors talking to neighbors, participating in smart and innovative planning efforts at the municipal level, protesting publicly to protect critical properties, and raising the collective volume on this vital community conversation.
It may be easier to leave this effort to the activists or to wait until something frightening is proposed that will impact your property, but the broader vision compels us to think differently and to bring together a large coalition of citizens, local businesses and officials who can say proudly to future generations including their children and grandchildren that they did what they could to protect this precious land.