Combining hindsight, foresight, present awareness and action
By FREDERICA LEIGHTON
When I was asked to write this column, I took the time to consider what vision, in an environmental context, means. To me, vision is a combination of hindsight, foresight, present awareness, and action. For those of us living in the Upper Delaware corridor in both New York and Pennsylvania, we are witnessing radical commercial and residential growth. It is right in front of our faces. The impacts are not only environmental, they are social and cultural. Are we ready?
Hindsight: On a recent trip to northern Virginia, an area growing fast as or faster than Pike, Wayne and Sullivan counties, I took a drive to check out the environs. Everywhere bulldozers were dozing, builders were building, pavers were paving and strip malls were sprawling. This wasnt in just one community; it was every community for 50 miles west of D.C.! As a member of a river conservancy, I felt very sad, and wondered if anyone cared about the rivers, the farms, the forests or the wildlife. Lack of vision in northern Virginia had produced a soulless, treeless landscape of cookie-cutter houses with no character or identity. Every now and again, a forlorn barn silo sat juxtaposed to a townhouse complex or single-family subdivision. Historic stone colonials had vinyl sided neighbors, not productive crop fields. Once lively brooks were flowing brown and cloudy offering no hint of babbling joy or aquatic life. Will this happen to us too?
Foresight: Early in the twentieth century, thanks to the far-sighted vision of conservation forerunners such as Gifford Pinchot, state parks and national forest lands were established in this area and throughout the United States. At that time, large tracts of forested land were being clear-cut for private profit or for farming. Today, large tracts of forested land and farm acreage are being sold for development. In my opinion, private ownership of large tracts of land shouldnt be discouraged by tax burdens and development pressure. Small farmers have a right to farm and foresters have a right to manage their wood lots. Are we doomed to having open space held only by corporations and government entities or can we preserve open space within the realm of private ownership?
Present Awareness: It is no surprise that in Pike County alone, several thousand formerly undeveloped tracts of land have recently been identified for residential subdivision. The push to re-zone land for commercial and industrial use is also obvious: Home Depot in Wayne, Price Chopper in Pike to name a few large-scale commercial projects. In the meantime, our present vision shows us that existing infrastructure is at peak capacity or dangerously obsolete; sewer systems need updating, bridges and dams are crumbling, roadways need habilitation or expansion. Are we balancing development and encroachment issues with the current needs of our communities?
Action: If, as a resident, you are truly concerned about what you see happening around you, then personal action is needed. You cannot assume that someone else is taking care of these issues for you. Attending municipal meetings, county supervisor and planning meetings, education seminars and reading the newspaper make you informed and able to act. Get to know your local ordinances, zoning and subdivision codes. Are they adequate to protect your health, your water supply, your community and your quality of life? Get to know your neighbors, your community leaders and the common issues you face. Make sure your township has a current comprehensive plan, a storm water management plan and maybe even a greenways plan. Create your own vision for yourself, your community, the environment and the future. Now is when action is needed.
[Frederica Leighton is a member of the Lackawaxen Watershed Conservancy.]