Its all about the river
By MARCIA NEHEMIAH
A few weeks ago I took my last kayaking trip of the season on the river. The trees were tinged with autumn colors and the water so clear I could see the tumbled rocks flow under my boat. A familiar eagle roosted in his favorite tree. I caught the silver flash of a jumping fish.
After I left the river, I my sense of peace and well being endured for days.
But every time I look at the Delaware, a nagging shadow trails me like the wake my boat makes in the water. Enjoy it while it lasts, I think. And it wont last forever. I imagine that what has happened to so many of the beautiful places Ive known will happen here toohousing developments, strip malls, self-storage units, parking lots, big box storesall those things people think they need or want will overrun the river valley just as it has overrun places where people lack the vision to do things differently, to preserve what they love.
Then I think of my vision for the Upper Delaware River Valley. Its more like a dream than anything else and I dont really believe it will ever come to pass even though its simple in theory. In my dream town leaders and citizens up and down the valley, united in their desire to preserve the natural beauty that nurtures them, not only for themselves but for their children and future generations, disregard town lines and state borders. They decide that the river valley is more valuable than political jurisdictions or individual monetary gains and that community is more important than private interests. They declare a moratorium on new building in the river valley up to and including the ridgeline. They permit conservation subdivisions elsewhere in the rivers watershed.
In my dream-vision, people of the Upper Delaware redefine progress. They dont believe its progress to clear trees for parking lots, to divide nature into parcels to be privately owned, to keep building.
They believe progress is achieved when people do not repeat the mistakes of the past. Progress happens when people consider the impact of their actions on future generations instead of considering only what will make them the most profits the most quickly.
My dream-vision sounds crazy, I know.
But maybe its not so crazy. It will take only a collective agreement that our valley belongs to all of us. Maybe its not so crazy to believe that citizens and elected officials can work together to conserve what they value and love for the enjoyment of those who live here and those who are drawn here.
Implementing my dream-vision will cost nothing; in fact, it is cheaper than costs of development, which demand more schools, wider roads, police forces and larger bureaucracies. Nature is self-sufficient. All we need do is partake of it by hiking, biking, fishing, boating, and hunting.
The Upper Delaware River valley might be known not only as a place of beauty but as a place where wisdom and a collective vision reigned. Or it can become just another compromised American landscape.
[Marcia Nehemiah moved to Lackawaxen, PA after retiring from a 28-year career teaching English in NJ. She is a poet, writer and Associate Editor for The River Reporter.]