People have a mistaken idea on the sanctity of government ownership. They find a building or a park or an expanse of open space threatened – they then propose to save it from the developer or the threat of destruction,
“We’ll just have our government buy it!” They cry.
Newburyport has purchased some lands, for example, in the area of the Common Pasture.
Now, I might want to remind everyone of a Biblical principle, “To whom much is given, much is required.” The amount of the City’s responsibilities increases proportionately to the amount of property it owns. Building yet another school building, senior center or public facility means more pressure to maintain and fix them, staff them and it means more pressure on the taxpayer.
As the City adds more land to its sphere of influence, more action needs to be taken to take care of the land. Since much of the land obtained is AgCon, (Agricultural and Conservation uses) so far the City has been doing a good job. One farmer hays a field, another keeps his cattle on the land and another area has a non-profit maintaining a bike path and nature trail. The rest lays fallow supposedly as a watershed.
But somewhere down the line, the City could be in an entirely different situation. It could get into tough financial stress with layoffs and reduction of services. The school costs could skyrocket. Insurance and pension and benefit and legal costs could become insufferable. The state could go broke cutting us off from aid.
And meanwhile, all that land, unused, just sits there.
We’ve seen other communities nearby resolve their financial condition by selling off public land. It could happen here if the situation becomes desperate enough.
If keeping the schools running competes with open land, the open land loses.
That is why it is important that these places of wildness be appreciated and used as much as possible. Safe and wide trails should be encouraged. Trusts and volunteers should be organized to take care of these areas. (Much like Parker River Clean Water Association maintains and monitors the Little River Nature Trail) Tours and demonstrations should be organized. Parking for visitors and educational kiosks should be invested in. People need to learn and understand the importance of open space.
If the community feels it is part and parcel with these wildlife areas, there will be a less likely call to get rid of them.
In other words, let’s use a very human saying, “Use it or lose it”.