Wednesday, April 8, 2015

About a forest in Annapolis, Maryland

I travel the country giving talks about forests. We all agree that it is a tragedy that our planet is losing its forest cover. In my talks I always mention a few forests that are threatened RIGHT NOW. These are forests that are not lost yet, but will be if the developers and collectors of taxes have their way. One of those threatened forests is Crystal Spring in Annapolis, Maryland. Right in the heart of a busy town, this 100 acre mature forest should be allowed to stay standing for so many, many reasons.

This week a few residents there took the time to write to the Capital Gazette. Here I share their letters with you.

Forrest Mays (pictured) has been working for 10 years to save this forest.

Not smart growth
I read Robert Arias letter to The Capital (March 22) headlined "Build Crystal Spring" and wanted to discuss the issues of smart growth and density raised in his letter. Maryland is known for adopting smart growth principles over two decades ago; the concept has evolved to "smart and sustainable" growth. Density is one of the tools to achieve smart growth and is often misunderstood.
Density, per se, is not smart growth. Rather density is used to save farms and forests from development. Rehabilitation and reuse of existing developed land, rather than further sprawl, is advocated. Saving farms and forests from ever-spreading development is a goal of smart growth.
It is ironic that some of those supporting the Crystal Spring project believe that density in itself is a laudable goal, even though a contiguous forest will be altered and largely removed. Planning is another tool of smart growth, and the city's plan for this site was much more modest and would have saved the majority of the forest for the future. Density without achieving an environmental goal is not smart growth.

Stop Crystal Spring
We need to redouble our protests of the proposed project, but it's been ongoing for so long, and the issues are so convoluted, that many have given up in frustration. Wrong reaction! The project contractor, lawyers and subject matter experts are not losing heart, they're not moving to the sidelines and they're not giving up. The contractor is even challenging the validity of comments made by some who live in ZIP codes outside the project, but all residents will have to live with the aftermath of the project.
Where do the contractors and lawyers get the chutzpah to question our motivation and commitment to the quality of our community? The contractors would like to distract us from the fact that this is a regional issue and a fundamental development versus environment issue; its size is incompatible with the site.
For an example of the opposite, look to Parole: An outdated commercial area was revitalized to become a mixed-use destination. In this case the scale and scope of the project were compatible with the site. The proposed Crystal Spring project is based on the destructive use of a declining natural resource, old-growth forest land. It's an example of development trumping the environment. If we use the unique character of our community as a magnet for development, this is the sort of project that sacrifices the good for the expedient.
Yes, there are tax implications for Annapolis if this and other projects are not initiated. But this current administration should not attempt to balance tax shortfalls on individual short term, project-by-project thinking. We need leaders who can think strategically, not just react to the issue of the moment or from one election cycle to the next.

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