Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Sand in the gears of main streets

For those of you who don't get the Sunday NY Times, I want to share a delightful Opinion Piece (pieces?) by seven poets responding to the question "Does Poetry Matter?" I read through the pieces while sitting on the patio and listening to the occasional call of a loon. I had the company, from time to time, of a chipmunk that has so far evaded the Hav-a-hart trap and a subsequent ride of several miles prior to release. I was having a very pleasant morning until I came across Jon Tevlin's column today, about Superior Silica Sands (SSS) and North Branch, and truck traffic impacts on Taylors Falls. Perhaps I've been overly sensitized to truck traffic by the heavy haulers (trailers and dumps) that have been pounding past the house for several days now as the township and / or the county "repairs" our gravel road somewhere south of here. Anyhow, we don't, and won't, have as much of a truck traffic problem (I hope) as Taylors Falls business and residents will experience if the deal between North Branch and SSS is finalized without protecting Taylors Falls "main street."

Taylors Falls public library
Photo by J. Harrington
When we wrote about this issue last week, we also mentioned transportation issues related to the shipment of actual oil and tar sands. If it weren't for fracking to increase our natural gas supply, I doubt the truck traffic on Minnesota State Highway 95 would present as much of an obstacle.  As we continue into the 21st century, it becomes more and more clear to me that, indeed, we are all in this together and the sooner we start acting that way the better off we'll all be. I don't think that North Brach and Taylors Falls would ever approach the level of animosity currently being displayed between Israel and Gaza, maybe more just like the Hatfields and the McCoys, or the Capone and Moran gangs. I wonder how many, if any, of this year's (and future) local elections might be affected by this issue?

St. Croix Falls and Taylors Falls
Photo by J. Harrington

Of course, having a state highway as your Main Street can be a mixed blessing. Wisconsin, for a number of years, as I recall, has had (may still have?) a program to route state highways around local "down towns." Those projects were frequently a source of questions and concern when "main street businesses" were afraid they'd loose visibility to drive-by traffic. According to the summaries linked in the preceding sentence, effects were more positive than not. How long would it take Minnesota to bypass downtown Taylors Falls? Would that be preferable for the community? Winona, another affected Minnesota community, is learning to cope with frac sand traffic and protesters. I remain troubled by the apparent lack of a venue for working out some sort of amicable resolution for this, and similar, issues. One of the keys to a sustainable society and a sustainable community is social equity. The way Taylors Falls may be affected by decisions intended to benefit North Branch and SSS seems to me to be very inequitable. Clearly, if this situation is any example, we have a lot of work to do to create a sustainable Minnesota, and it doesn't all have to do with environmental regulatory agencies. Perhaps we can find a way to prove Wordsworth wrong. Perhaps, not.


By William Wordsworth 

From low to high doth dissolution climb,
And sink from high to low, along a scale
Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail;
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whitened hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time. 

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