Elegy for a Small Woodlot


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6.10.19 Bailiwick News – Elegy for a Small Woodlot

I recently read a quote from John Sawhill at Muddy Paws Marsh: “A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.”

This beautiful oasis of relatively wild trees, shrubs, and habitat for birds and bugs, squirrels and rabbits, humans and dogs, is about a half-block from my house.

It sits on seven acres, between the rear parking lot of the Hamilton Square Shopping Center and Karch Auto’s impound lot, along Fraser Street.

For many years, I’ve found solace walking the path worn by countless other people, dogs, and wild critters through a strange piece of green earth at the site of a former town quarry.

It seemed to be neither a public park requiring taxpayer maintenance and intrusive rule-postings, nor a private commercial property rendering every visitor merely a customer in a financial transaction.

It was that rare kind of place – a place where living creatures and cleft stone could simply be together.

I hoped that it was a residual parcel too small for development that could stay as a vital component of my neighborhood’s character.

Not to be.

The trees will be chainsawed and the land bulldozed soon, to build a three-story apartment block to house about 120 Penn State students in 18 units, and parking for some of their cars.

I never even tried to fight this development, even though it will hit me harder than any of the other development fights I’ve been involved in.

I’ll hear the chainsaws and bulldozers for months on end; I’ll feel the screams of the dying trees and the fear of the displaced animals in my body’s bones, because we are all connected, and I’ve been blessed and cursed with thin biophilic membranes.

I didn’t fight it because there are too many fights to fight them all. I have to choose.

I write about it only to grieve for the loss: another blow among many for all those of us who dream of living in communities where life holds more power than profiteers do.

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