Walk in the Park
The Arcadia Management Area in Rhode Island is a very rarely talked about gem that most people have passed or entered. It spans more than 14,000 acres, making it the largest recreational area in the state. Arcadia covers land in West Greenwich, Exeter, Richmond, and Hopkinton (including Browning Mill Pond, Breakheart Pond, and Frosty Hollow Pond). Here, wildlife and people converge.
Currently, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management is trying to claim a portion of this state park as its own. They wish to place a 13,000 square foot building at Browning Mill Pond. It will cost the state seven million dollars to create the building and there is no promise that it will be maintained by the group as other buildings under their care have become rather rundown. The building would be placed directly on the hill where many people meet to have picnics and also watch the sunset. It will cause more pollution in the area and could potentially drive away native species. Trees would be chopped and the current standing of the hill would need to be changed in order to hold the building.
The Human Aspect: Stability During an Unstable Time
It is no secret that the people in our country are under immense pressure and it has been this way for some time. Again, it is no secret that things are constantly changing in our world especially in the New England area where everything is fast paced and there is an obsession with moving forward. With so many changes in our society being able to hold onto something stable is significant.
Yet, there are so few things available to us at a moment's notice that can actually be considered stable or dependable.
One of these things however, is nature. The natural world around us, despite its seasonal changes, is one of the few things that humans are able to constantly depend on; humans evolved using nature. We depend on it for basic survival (food, water, shelter), but it is also needed for psychological well-being. Nature effects our psychology in 3 ways: 1) reduces stress, 2) improves our mood, and 3) improves our cognitive skills. However, this is in an entirely natural environment away from man-made buildings. Societal creations are not constant, but the trees, grass, water, and animals around us are.
For many people in the Exeter/Richmond area, Browning Mill Pond is a constant and is gone to in times of change. It has been there since they were children, since their parents were children, and since their family moved to the town. They see it daily on their way home, sometimes briefly stopping to watch the sun set in a sparkling nature show after a hard day at work. I myself have gone out of my way to ensure that I pass it before going home, most of the time stopping to walk down the large hill, and out to the peninsula where some of my best memories have been made. It is a place to unplug for many of us.
Many people have gone here as children, learning to fish while having picnics with their family at the tables, their bobbers moving in the water as the sun reflected off the top. Now, these people bring their own children here to enjoy the same scenery they did. While sitting, they reflect upon their memories and smile fondly out at the water, remembering when it was their first time learning to fish as well.
"I caught my first five pound bass here," is one memory that was recently recounted with a smile. The same individual came here with his father as a child and hiked the trails with him. He fondly remembers the wonder he felt upon first seeing the hatchery close by and watching the fish zigzag through the water. As he grew older he wandered away from the pond, forgetting where exactly it was until he stumbled upon it once more. He had remembered exactly what it looked like, the barrels that once stood by the water, the peninsula with the view between the trees, and the picnic tables sitting idly by the lapping water.
Like many of us, he saw the view from the top of the hill where the state of Rhode Island plans to place their building. The vision brought back memories of a childhood spent with his father, happy memories of a stable time when life was more relaxed, a time before the typical New England pace caught up to him, like it has for the rest of us. For a moment, he was brought back in time, taking a deep breath of clean air, his boots stationed in the grass and dirt, a warm wind blowing against his cheek as his eyes took in the same spot he had seen as a child with minimal changes (except the new "No Swimming" sign beside the water).
Browning Mill Pond has to be left in the hands of nature without the placement of a building. The building, though RIDEM claims it will be better for humans, actually may cause more damage to our well-being. Nature is needed in times of stress because it allows us to get back in touch with our basic instincts, it allows for clearer thinking, and brings us back to a simpler time before stress took over our lives.
We have to continue to remind our representatives that nature and open spaces are needed in our lives; for our generation and future ones. RIDEM's job is to protect the environment in order to ensure that it will be there for future generations to use and enjoy, but this building will do the complete opposite. As a community we must come together to stop the construction of such a monstrosity in a pristine place, as a world we have to come together to protect our natural environment and ourselves.