|Closed Minds of Open Space Cadets|
BY BRUCE APAR
When it comes to so-called open space, there are two kinds of people in this world: 1) Those who love open space generically and communally want to share it with, or even cede it to, others who have the wherewithal to develop it into something productive and beneficial to the community. 2) Those who love Open Space proprietarily (and with capitalization), and want to monopolize the conversation about what can be done with it, which is to say, do nothing with it, hands off, get off my land!
To them, every parcel, no matter how big or small -- or so it seems -- is the Ponderosa, and anybody who dares tread on it with ponderous steps that would break an eggshell is deemed a trespasser who deserves to be shot down, figuratively speaking of course. They've virtually re-written Woody Guthrie's anthem: "This land is my land, and this land is my land, and so is this land mine, so don't tread on me, man."
This particular showdown is being joined in the wild west Town of Yorktown, where an outspoken, self-regarding, cloistered, and at times impolite vanguard of Open Space advocates steps up to the podium -- literally of course -- any time a blade of grass is about to be touched by human hands other than their own, or their landscapers'.
As with any affinity group, some members are more astute, articulate and averse to chest-thumping confrontational politics than are others. Unfortunately, those who don't fit the above description are not held in check by those who do, and all of them unfairly can be painted with the same broad brush as Open Space Bullies.
That's right. It's come to this bizarre turn of events, where those who play the (upper case) Open Space card at every fork in the road are unwittingly and ironically giving (lower case) open space a bad name.
It's the "Boy Who Cried Wolf" syndrome. When you use Open Space as a cudgel to try pushing back on every development that "threatens" a shovel in the hallowed ground that no man shall rend asunder, you give open space itself a bad name. The 98% other people who don't see things your way in every case start getting a decided distaste in their collective mouth, wincing every time they hear Open Space and closing their own ears and minds to what you have to say!
The most ardent, least rational of the Open Space agitators have earned their sphere of influence a well-deserved reputation among everyone else for "being anti-everything" because to act in behalf of Open Space doesn't mean you are any more for it than the person who welcomes Costco or Wal-Mart into their community with open arms to go along with an open mind.
The enemy of open space is not a commercial developer or a politician who wants to help his town ease its tax burden through smart growth. The enemy of open space is closed minds, namely of those who hold firm to the precious, self-serving notion there is only one side to an issue. It's also the closed minds of those who will oppose a project even while not deigning to step foot inside the project or learn relevant details about it before declaiming against its attributes and validity.
In Yorktown, the most closed mind of the Open Space Cadets is an accomplished, intelligent gentleman who has outright stated that when he speaks his mind at town board meetings, the elected head of the town should shut his trap by not responding to the speaker's comments in any way, shape or form. Like I said, only one side to every story is his rallying cry, figuratively speaking of course (at least I have not yet seen him shed tears in public, other than the crocodile type).
When I told my friend Tom DeChiaro of The Winery at St. George that the enemy of open space is closed minds -- as if he didn't already know by living through it for six years -- he came back with his own epigrammatic take on the situation. Said Tom, "They talk about smart growth, but what they really mean is no growth."
Don't know if I can agree with you on that one, Yorktown's Sommelier Laureate. I mean grass grows, doesn't it? Still, green as it is, just try and get it to pay taxes.