I have been hearing that we have too much conserved land in Charlotte and that the Town Plan currently up for review and comment is too “green” and anti-economic development. If the following thoughts sound slightly sentimental, please forgive your aging tree warden. This is my personal opinion.
Many of us who live in Charlotte, whether for two years, 30 years or a lifetime, feel that we have found “our place.” This is a place where we want to have roots and find a grounding sanctuary in a world of too-rapid change, of turmoil that we feel powerless to alter. As I sit here at my computer, looking out over the deck at a wonderful rural landscape, I try to analyze why I feel so fortunate that I have found my “place,” living in our town.
Two major reasons stand out from the many facets of living in Charlotte.
First, there is the physical or, more aptly, biophysical surround or habitat in which I live. The lake, hills, farms, forests, streams, wetlands, wild plants and animals, clean air and distant mountains—this environment is absolutely stunning. Yet it is more than superficial beauty to an observer, it is a habitat in which one can immerse oneself, feel bonded to this lovely creation, Earth. It permeates all the senses: Canada geese honking overhead, barking of fox, “peent” of woodcock, autumn foliage, forest/field mosaic, warmth of summer garden soil, taste of newly picked blueberries, even smell of newly manured fields—the bonding vignettes go on and on. Here one feels connected to the real world, which is not the world of shopping, finance, political power or rushing from one meeting to another. Rather this is the world that sustains life, provides oxygen, water, food and fiber, and acquaintance with many of the other forms of life that share this planet with us. Charlotte can provide opportunity to repeatedly re-connect with Life. Land conservation is one of the best ways of assuring that “rural” and some “wild” remain in our future.
Second, there is the human community, the potlucks, the public places such as the library, Post Office and Senior Center where you meet friends, the volunteer groups of all kinds, even our small stores such as Spears, Old Brick or Little Garden Market.
We are so fortunate in Vermont, and in our town in particular, that we can easily work with others to shape our future. We are not powerless. Government is close to us, not some distant impersonal entity or process that cannot be influenced. We may often encounter our congressional or Statehouse members, or the governor, at modest public events. Town Meeting, Selectboard meetings and hearings, Planning Commission meetings and those of Zoning Board of Adjustment, or the many volunteer committees and commissions that have been established to assist government, all are available for information and input into decision-making.
We have a Town Plan, shaped by the community to provide a vision of what we collectively want the town to remain or become over time. It is currently being reviewed. Do we want to maintain the quality of rich rural and small village living or become another example of a town that has trashed nature and the rural landscape in favor of the false idea that conversion of any agricultural and forest or wild land to development is progress, and the myth that any development lowers our taxes?
We have a choice. The Planning Commission has worked hard to produce a valid guide (Thanks be to this group!). This is a key document, and citizen input of all flavors is needed to make it a valid guide. We can influence the path of Charlotte continuing to be a desirable place to live and to co-exist with a rich and wonderful natural world. Participate!
Larry Hamilton, Charlotte tree warden