My vision for the Upper Delaware River
By MARY CURTIS
I can remember my father looking at Main Street, Callicoon, shaking his head and saying: These people have no vision! I think it was some time in the early seventies, when our river towns were pretty depressing and uninspiring. The local economy was in bad shape. Main Street shops were vacant or barely limping along. The only signs of life seemed to be the summers thundering hordes of drunken, trespassing, out-of-control canoeists who took over the villages each weekend and exhibited some pretty disgusting behavior on or in sight of private property along the river.
At that time, my fathers most optimistic vision for the futureand mine, if I had given it some thoughtmight have been very much like the Upper Delaware Valley we enjoy today. Just to have trespassers relatively under control, some prosperous-looking businesses on Main Street and the scenery still relatively intact without constant and heavy handed governmental interventionthat seemed an almost impossible dream.
Despite challenges like cell phone towers and clear cutting of hillsides, continuing concerns about the economy and unresolved private property rights issues, the river valley today is a pretty good place to live.
My vision of a good future for my hometown and region has less to do with laws and regulations and more to do with the way we work together and how we treat each other. I have no doubt that there will be peopleto the right and to the leftwho will stand guard to protect property owners rights or sound the alarm when the environment is threatened.
We have seen what happens when those concerns reach a fever pitch. Loud voices, threats (real or perceived), hard-line regulations and inflammatory rhetoric may have an impact. But it doesnt make for the kind of place where most of us would like to live.
As a historian and sociologist by profession and a local resident by choice and by heritage, I view with delight the unique character of the people who have come to live in this river valley. From the earliest settlers to todays second home owners, the valley has attracted rugged individualists, folks fleeing over-regulated and over-populated urban areas, and those who just want to enjoy the scenery and not be bothered by people who might get in the way of that pursuit. Im confident these present and future residents will keep an eye on the prize and will let the world know any time there is a threat to our way of life and our beautiful valley.
What I would like to see, however, is a community where voices of dissention are incorporated into the processes of change, where people respect their neighbors even while disagreeing with them, where each persons voice is calm and reasonable because everyone knows their opinions are respected.
Is that a vision or a pipe dream? Perhaps a little of both.
[Mary Curtis, whose family has lived in the Upper Delaware Valley for eight generations, is a Callicoon native and retired park historian for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River.]
[This column is part of an initiative to encourage citizens to take an active role in the future of the Upper Delaware River Valley. To contribute to this column contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For more about the Visioning the Upper Delaware Valley initiative and for a complete archive of visioning statements, go to upperdelaware.com.