Friday, March 19, 2004
It's about balance
Decisions we make in the next few years will have a large impact on the long-term character of this town. One such decision coming before Special Town Meeting on Tuesday is whether to acquire 45 acres (Parcel A) for open space preservation, recreation and affordable housing. The purchase would be financed with funds and matching grants collected under the Community Preservation Act, and deserves our serious consideration.
Others have written about the beauty of the open space, the need for affordable housing and the threat from unchecked 40B development. Questions have been raised about increased traffic and noise, financing and the need to ensure adequate planning.
What else is there to say? Perhaps that nearby residents will benefit the most if the town buys Parcel A on South Street. They just don't know it yet.
An interesting fact was revealed in 1985 when Carlisle citizens were surveyed about how they used conservation land. In general, people visited most often those conservation lands located closest to where they lived. This should not really be surprising. People used the lands for a wide variety of activities, including jogging, dog-walking, cross-country skiing, sledding, gardening, horseback riding, bird watching, picnicking and nature photography. All of these were enjoyed more frequently by those lucky enough to live nearby.
Since that survey, one of the goals of the town's open space planning has been to improve the balance of public lands in the town's four quadrants, so that more people would have ready access to conservation land. The southwest part of Carlisle still has little public land. If the town buys Parcel A, the 26-acre open space portion and ballfield area will be public property to be enjoyed by all. If the town does not buy Parcel A, the dry land will be divided into large private building lots.
I understand something of the anxiety of some South Street residents as they consider the proposal coming before Town Meeting. We had a similar experience several years ago when the Malcolm Meadows senior housing development was built in our neighborhood. This was also a multi-use land project; split between housing and conservation. We are not direct abutters, but my family benefited greatly from the Malcolm Land project.
We like our new neighbors who've moved into Malcolm Meadows, and we've noticed little increase in traffic (perhaps because seniors do not have to ferry children to music lessons and sports practice).
We lost part of the road-side vista when the housing was built, but we gained much more with new public access to enjoy the fields and woods. We love the stone-dust trail that loops around the field. Besides being wheelchair-friendly, this trail has been great for walking with young children who aren't safe near cars. Another great new trail leaves the loop and winds through the trees to connect back with the Two Rod Road trail to Estabrook Woods.
For similar reasons, I suspect that residents of South Street will also enjoy any new ballfield eventually built on Parcel A. Organized sports teams use town fields roughly eight weeks in spring and fall, and the rest of the time the fields are empty — available for neighborhood residents who want to throw a frisbee, fly a kite, or kick a soccer ball with their kids before dinner.
Purchasing Parcel A with CPA funds makes economic sense. I also believe that a Benfield Conservation Land would be cherished long into the future by South Street as well as all of Carlisle.
A tough act to follow
When townspeople gathered at Town Hall last week to grieve and remember Vivian Chaput, the themes were style and substance. Combined with these characteristics was a positive force in the effective management of our community for a quarter of a century. Vivian was always direct, always friendly, always consistent. You knew what she wanted to accomplish, and she had the rare quality of getting you to put much more time and effort into accomplishing common goals than you intended or thought possible. Vivian was a leader by example as well as by force of personality.
When I consider what we can learn from Vivian Chaput's example and how we might remember her, I think about what she has given the town and thus each of us. In Carlisle we talk of a sense of community, of our schools, the open fields where families can walk, our rural character, and our small-town feel. To maintain the qualities that brought us to Carlisle, Vivian reminded us that we cannot treat our town as a hotel. We should follow her example, as many have, by being involved.
Vivian's commitment to community service reminds me of words by Albert Schweitzer spoken at the memorial service for Carlisle resident Kay Kulmala, another giant of a woman, who joyously contributed so much to the town:
"One other thing stirs me — the fact that so many people gave something or were something to me without knowing it. Much of what has become our own in gentleness, modesty, kindness, willingness to forgive, in veracity, loyalty, resignation under suffering, we owe to people in whom we have seen or experienced these virtues at work. A thought which had become an act sprang into us like a spark and lighted a new flame within us."
Each of us carries the spark of Vivian's example within us. I believe she says to us, "I am not irreplaceable, so take a few moments from your ever more busy lives to keep Carlisle a home that our children and grandchildren will find as lovely and friendly as we do today. Come on, guys, stay involved or get involved." Let the spark become a flame.
Vivian Chaput reminds me of the Latin motto of the school where my dad taught. Loosely translated, it goes: "With Grit and Grace." It's perfect, I think, and it brings Vivian instantly to my mind's eye. It is a tough act to follow, but we must.
© 2004 The