I was both moved and inspired by the artwork of third grader Orrin Melonas [“Kids Takes: Area Youths Share Creative Works About Spring,” April 19, Xpress]. I hope that fellow Mountain Xpress readers will seek out this simple but evocative piece to view for themselves. One thing that struck me was the work’s eerie similarity to many things I see posted on Nextdoor by adults living in our beautiful area.
Almost daily, citizens share photographs and paintings of treasured trees, soaring hawks, busy bears, rivers, lakes, unscarred hills and old-growth forests crucial to the health and wellness of neighbors and neighborhoods alike. In fact, I’ve yet to see a positive post about traffic jams, stormwater runoff, steep-slope assaults like the one threatening Beaver Lake or old-growth trees being razed.
While we rightly praise Wilma Dykeman, Karen Cragnolin and other activists who came before us to safeguard what is essential to our current well-being, it’s important to remember that we who are here in the present are making generation-defining decisions that will impact adults who are now children. Many local officials seem to be blinded by the mad cries of “more, more” and “bigger, bigger.” And I find it troublesome that some local officials accept campaign contributions from developers while tuning out longtime residents and their valid concerns. Since one could argue that real estate is to Asheville what the stock market is to members of Congress, this seems somewhat “wrong,” to say the least.
As you view Orrin Melonas’ drawing, I hope you’ll agree that not every parcel of real estate is necessarily best suited to be built upon. In our society, intrinsic value is often less valued simply because its worth is immeasurable, or not fully comprehended or appreciated until it is gone. Trees are generous beings, supplying us not only with eye-pleasing aesthetics, but also free air-conditioning, carbon sequestration and much more that is vital to our bodies and souls.
Oftentimes, the best use of that forest at the end of a narrow dead-end street with insufficient ingress/egress access points to safely add extra humans is that it remain a forest.
It takes wisdom, vision and courage to safeguard what’s already here and perfect the way it is. Let’s safeguard more intact forests near rivers, parks and at various points around (and close to) our beautiful city for young folks like Orrin Melonas to enjoy. Their future rests in our hands and with our present-day decisions. Our children deserve the right to one day be adults in a lovely, resilient, well-planned and well-tended place.
— Robert McGee