As I swam off our anchored sailboat at the western edge of Lake Arthur, I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate freedom. I watched my family float in the crisp clean water of the lake, and I felt a calm that is hard to come by in the shalefields. Bliss, these days, is hard to come by.
I hate the word shalefields. Western Pennsylvania was once synonymous with sweet water creeks for kayaking, local ponds for fishing, and slow winding roads for bicycle rides. Is it any wonder why in 2009 tourism overtook agriculture as Butler’s top industry? But what was oft described as an outdoorsman’s paradise now has this new demarcation and all that comes with it. We are promised jobs, environmental stewardship, and sensitivity to the community. More often than not, what we find are industrial shortcuts, unintended consequences, snarling traffic, fractured communities, and an erasure of our outdoor herita ge. It must stop!
When speaking with an organizer from Save Western Maryland on the phone last weekend, I pulled up behind a residual waste truck with temporary plates at a stop sign. It was the same red cylinder truck with a cat-walk on the driver’s side that I have seen countless times all over the state. Once you know what’s in them you look at them in the same way that early humans must have looked at saber-tooth tigers; as a threat. The smell was horrific. This truck was loaded. A driver just a few days earlier had told me that they were not supposed to use Rt. 528N when they were loaded, but that this rule was frequently broken. This driver seemed to be Exhibit A. He turned left onto Rt. 422W heading towards Ohio.
After a BBQ at home, we finished our 4th of July celebrations at the community park, in the baseball field listening to the Pittsburgh Philharmonic playing songs from the Wizard of Oz and watching the fireworks overhead. The children played in the infield while we sat in the outfield facing the third base wall. We took solace in the fact that these explosions were in the air and not under our feet.
The temporary comfort of forgetting is blissful, but knowledge is power, and we at TDF intend to use and spread ours. Clicking our heals three times will not solve anything.
Please consider a safe and tax-deductible donation to TDF via Clean Water Fund. We are half-way through our fund drive and have reached 25% of our goal.