Traditionally, the holiday season is viewed as a time to reflect on ‘thankfulness’ for the general health and welfare of our communities. Nevertheless, a 21st century question is, ‘Are we, as communities, contributing to the eco-health or demise of our urban, suburban as well as rural communities?’
Through participating in a series of community meetings related to the reclassification of wetland areas from ‘flood plain’ to ‘hazard area’, I heard person after person describe significant change in the quantity of their community’s flood waters, areas flooding that had never flood before; and even, not once or twice but numerous times, raw sewage which seeped into surrounding creeks, streams and rivers. So, as the present-day caretaker for a ‘generational family owned property’ once labeled the Bolton Estate located in Henrico County Virginia, I am alarmed.
When stable, this property serves as a host site for a variety of wildlife, ranging from fox to the American eagle. In fact, historical records indicate the central lake to be a natural pool; but overtime, it was extended to first support more than 500 acres of agriculture activity and a second time, to support outdoor active recreation facilities. Nevertheless, due to the impact of surrounding urban/suburban development, the area is no longer usable for fresh-water recreation. So, you see, I share with the wildlife a ‘bird’s eye view’ of the impact of urban/suburban runoff and pollution. I’ve watched a so-to-speak once pristine spring-feed wetland become a dumping ground; yet, it is one of the few remaining community green corridors – habitats.
On the other hand, the area similar to other areas does not have to remain a dumping ground, a hazard area. There are alternative land use strategies which will not only recover but prevent future negative impact. First and foremost, there is – related to this property - a County of Henrico sponsored creek restoration program. Still, for it to effectively work, other strategies need to be implemented; for examples, a rethink of how land is developed, use of ‘green build’ construction alternatives; and perhaps, more importantly, an awareness of the eco-consequences of individual life-style choices.
So, while I cringe at the fact we have labeled 21st century green spaces hazard; perhaps, it is an excellent first step. For, it should be the beginning of an evangelistic awakening: a challenge to focus on implementing forms of green land use that not only lessen the impact of urban/suburban development but recover the eco-health of our Nation’s communities. Individually and collectively we do have a pivotal eco opportunity: the option of choosing to implement green land use strategies which enable eco-healthy community landscapes or continue down a path of present-day life-styles which contribute to the decline of eco-systems.
While many view the holiday season as a time to celebrate family and host feasts, I want be thankful for the world’s natural beauty, focus on the recovery of community eco health. Why? In early 2013, members of the Global and National Climate Change Academies will release eco research compiled by member national and global scientists. Then, our newly elected National representatives are legislatively required to review this research and enable eco regulation.
Recovering ‘hazard areas’ – green space corridors, will require the joint effort of all: elected and appointed representation, land use development professionals, governmental regulation and of course, regional businesses and residential communities. So, together, let’s make a commitment to ‘green’ America’s landscape - move ‘hazard areas’ from eco-weak to eco-chic, create a legacy of eco healthy urban, suburban as well as rural green spaces. And, perhaps one day, the birds will look down and think, ‘Whew, those humans, they had a close call; but, thankfully recognized the error of their ways!’
About the author – Spotlighted by Landscape Architect magazine as an Industry ‘mover & shaker’, Glen Allen VA based The Wright Scoop –Sylvia Hoehns Wright, recipient of the ‘Turning America from Eco-weak to Eco-chic’ award sponsored by Hines Horticulture, Project Evergreen and Today’s Garden Center magazine – challenges all to ‘green’ America’s landscapes, create a legacy of healthier urban/suburban communities. For details of Wright's activities, visit web site www.TheWrightScoop.com
Pix available on request – Pix caption – Generational-family wetland property provides habitat for Wright’s Glen Allen VA community.
Sylvia Hoehns Wright