Site Needs to be Preserved, not Reserved

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is reprinted here with permission of the author Michael Chambers
It is not surprising that there are people in Charlestown that want to hold a piece of pristine land hostage to the developer’s bulldozer.  At a time when unspoiled land on the East Coast is diminishing at an alarming rate, Deb Carney wants to keep the Moraine Preserve exposed to future development of recreational facilities when just across the street is Ninigret Park.  The Charlestown Town Council did not raise the money for the purchase of this land, as reported in the Westerly Sun article of February 17.  The money was there all along based on a favorable bond issue vote in 2004 during Ms. Carney’s tenure on the Town Council. The bond referendum included the word “recreation” so that Town Council would put the item on the ballot.

At one time, developers wanted to dam the Colorado River to create reservoirs for power generation, water conservation, and recreational activities.  Thanks to Teddy Roosevelt and other concerned environmentalists, the expansion of the National Park System saved the Grand Canyon.  Saving the Moraine Preserve is nowhere near as monumental as saving the Grand Canyon, but the mental gyrations that developers go through are essentially the same.  They hold out the potential of future benefits by convincing their audience that, all things being equal, there is a gain in development of open spaces.   But what Ms. Carney does not address is that all things are not equal, land is being irretrievably lost daily.  Rational use of land is being pushed to the back burner so that individual interests can be addressed; overlooking the value of the land as it is for the majority. That majority is not just residents of Charlestown, but the majority of visitors to our town also.

Recreation is recreation, whether it is hiking, bird watching, or just enjoying nature. To separate recreation into passive and active pursuits is disingenuous, at best.  The issue is really about developing the land for recreation through construction of recreational facilities or interacting with nature on nature’s terms.  Part of the arguments from our environmentally concerned citizens against Whalerock was directed at disturbing this pristine environment.  If Ms. Carney really needs to dig up any area on Route 1, it would be economically more feasible to disturb the land across the street in Ninigret Park.  As Ms. Carney pointed out, the Moraine Preserve land was considered for siting a high school building but neglected to point out that the high school plan was rejected out of hand primarily due to insurmountable costs.  Conservation easements will preserve the character of that land.  A vast majority of the residents speaking out on the future of that land has urged the Town Council to protect the land.  Ms. Carney would elevate her desires above the majority to eliminate easements and hold that land in reserve – not preserve – for some future developer.