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Gratitude without vigilance is not enough

GUEST COLUMN

When painter John D. Barrow stood at the end of Skaneateles Lake in front of citizens gathered to celebrate July 4, 1876 he concluded a beautiful address:

“Let us especially remember the beauty of our lake and its shores, and resolve, that henceforth that present beauty, and in some measure at least, the restoration of the old shall ever be in our thoughts and among the constant and zealous efforts of our lives. May we all do something to this end, so that after another hundred years, our successors shall meet together and rejoice, and thank us for what we may have done for the pleasure and honest pride of their lives; when Skaneateles Lake shall be, as nature intended it, the loveliest and the most alluring of all our inland waters.”

He has charged us. We are all stewards of this land and this lake whether we rent an apartment, own a store, rent a camp, own a mansion, are a student or a town official, a farmer or a boat captain. We are here in the midst of pure water and sloping fields and forests, ravines and wetlands and what each of us does or does not do to protect it matters hugely now and for our future generations. Gratitude for it without vigilance and action is not enough. We all need to speak up for high standards in water purity and land conservation so that 100 years from now we still have what John Barrow loved and what we love today: clean water, wide vistas of fields and forests, fishable streams, working wetlands, protected habitats for non-threatened species, healthy soils and a population easily served by the town and it’s finite resources.

Take a look around, better, drive around the lake and think about a comprehensive town plan that could be finally adopted to protect and conserve. It would ensure carefully placed homes and open view-sheds and vast spaces. It could protect some undeveloped shoreline and encourage a wide ring of green around the lake with maintained trails for hikers. It could require extreme caution with regards to development in the watershed. Its priorities would make our future beautiful, our waters and lands safe from pollution and the jobs of the town planning board much simpler.

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