I remember once reading a critique of biological conservation in Japan. Conservation policy favored compromise: a development would be proposed, it would be opposed due to adverse environmental impacts, and the outcome typically permitted some of the development to proceed, at some cost to environmental quality.
This incremental increase of both development and its resulting degradation of environmental assets had worked well to diffuse contention in a populous nation that prized social harmony. Developers got less than they bargained for, conservationists reduced the damage to natural resources. But such a policy was beginning to expose its flaw – the environment we share with all people and other species is a finite resource, and human activity can threaten the very survival of its values. For example, measures to protect the endangered Metropolitan Bitterling, a freshwater fish, were taken only when it had dwindled down to one last habitat. The Japanese government eventually had to draw a line in the sand.
As in Japan, so it is in Watertown. We face a proposed development at Victory Field that threatens to “love it to death.” It’s time to draw our own line in the sand. There can be too much of a good thing. By “good thing” in the present instance, I refer to organized athletic events. Let’s make sure that some of these good things like track-and-field and tennis fare well as a result of our proposed developments. Let’s allow additional games that do not require the drastic intervention of more nets and poles. Last but not least, let’s keep an open invitation to all those other informal, impromptu, all-age activities that thrive in our remaining little green space ringed by trees: romping with one’s toddler, pickup frisbee and soccer games, kite-flying, stretching old muscles on cool grass to the hum of honey bees in clover, far from the stress and strain of traffic.
With the above thoughts in mind, I propose an ecological guideline for Phase 2: No net loss of living open space. If we sacrifice 20,000 square feet of natural turf in the track-and- field upgrade, then we must convert an equivalent developed area to natural turf and trees in compensation. If that means the loss of some existing parking area, we must hasten to promote the kind of bicycle-friendly culture that this town is only just beginning to develop. Think bike racks in place of parking stripes. Perhaps buses can conduct all necessary maneuvers on Orchard Street. It’s time to call a halt to any further compromise of nature here. No Net Loss Of Living Open Space!