In the opening dialogue of the movie, Fellowship of the Ring, Galadriel states,
The world is changed.
I feel it in the water
I feel it in the earth
I smell it in the air.
Much that once was is lost,
for none now live who remember it.
One of the saddest things about Newburyport is the historical memory of the City is being forgotten. A new ‘peoples’ have moved into the port, who have no personal experience of the local past and know no one who even experienced even the recent past. Even as we have setup our ‘Cultural District’, we are losing the unique culture of the place. The newcomers have different ideas as to what is important and have brought into the community a different set of priorities.
These are ‘strangers’ with no historical anchors and have no idea of what the community actually is. A good example was one Facebook poster who complained about all these ‘street trees’ on the sidewalks. Who in their right mind, was installing these! Another complained, “And what is it with these ‘brick’ sidewalks!?! Get rid of them!” Yet another, “why do we have to put up with all these ‘old’ buildings which are often way too small, with too little land and especially, no parking available!?!”
The problem is that the values of the residents of the 18th and early 19th century is totally different from the values of the residents of the late 19th century and 20th century and now, again, are the values of the present changing population of the 21st century.
And each of these time periods are shaping the economy, infrastructure and social strata of the community.
Is there a problem with that? Yeah, there is a problem! A big problem. And it is not the “I wish we had the good old days” (which is highly subjective when it comes to the term “good”); it has to do with our economy.
Ecology and History is our economic wealth!
Everything done in our city which stabs at the heart of these two pillars will make us weak and will impoverish us. Everything that enhances these foundations of affluence will make us richer.
The problem is that we have a host of people, natives and newcomers, who may possess different ideas of what makes us a better community. Some think ‘business’ whether retail or light industrial will make us wealthier. Others think, Art in its many forms will make us a better place. Others think leisure and ease will cement a good place. Others that provide plenty for the many social levels of society will do it; and yet, others that encourage solid families will make it so.
So many of these pursuits may intersect but they in themselves don’t make us a wealthier, highly-desirable place. Tons of other communities will pursue these same things with success; but not Newburyport. Ecology and History are our bread and butter. Kill them and you kill our city. Protect them and you will enrich our city.
It is that simple.
This is why a large portion of our population need to join, support and embrace our two great history promoting institutions: the Custom House Maritime Museum and the Museum of Old Newbury. Included in that mix is the practical side: the Newburyport Preservation Society, because the buildings and the infrastructure have to be preserved to reflect our history. As for ecology, the Audubon Society, Essex County Greenbelt, Merrimack River Watershed Association, Storm Surge and Parker River Clean Water Association need to be supported. Volunteers are needed in these environmental organizations and to participate in local town and city boards and commissions.
Our biggest challenge is to stop the city becoming a mediocre, worn-out community filled with strangers to each other, filled with meaningless attitudes and depressed states of hopelessness. And yes, abandoning our two great strengths will bring about what has caused so many other communities to suffer.
Here’s what needs to be done by every citizen! Learn Newburyport’s history and learn the ecology. This knowledge will then easily shape the conduct, the economy and goals of the citizens!