infilling is ill advised

I think our city officials are nuts. They want to risk destroying three of Whitehorse’s nicest and oldest residential neighbourhoods because…

I think our city officials are nuts.

They want to risk destroying three of Whitehorse’s nicest and oldest residential neighbourhoods because they don’t want to incur the cost and pain of planning another one that could be just as nice — on the lower bench below Porter Creek, say, that can accommodate more than 2,000 housing units and will satisfy the city’s expansion needs for years to come.

Instead, they prefer to “infill” the smallish greenbelts in Riverdale, Porter Creek and Takhini North with an unspecified number of single- and multiple-family residential housing units.

Don’t they realize this action will effectively change the characters of these places forever while robbing the people who live there now of their well-used and much-loved recreational areas that teem with wildlife and wildflowers?

Would they rather see these residents get into their vehicles and drive umpteen kilometres to the edge of town, or beyond, to see a coyote, owl or lupine or just generally revel in the peaceful tranquility of the natural world after their workday ends?

If so, this idea is insane and demonstrates yet again how messed up we are as a society. We keep getting our priorities all wrong, and in the process end up destroying the very things we love most.

People NEED nature to stay fit and keep sane. They also need it every single day of their lives to remind them of its myriad wonders and delights.

Hopefully, then, they won’t allow others to clearcut or pave over every last vestige of it until the only nature left is in magazines, books or on television, or so far away they only get to enjoy it on holidays, if they’re lucky and rich enough to be able to afford them.

The people (both elected and salaried) who run this city just don’t get it. They’re determined to make it just as ugly and jammed as every other place: full of soulless strip malls surrounded by seas of asphalt, eyesore industrial areas on major arteries instead of tucked away out of sight, subdivisions chockablock with ticky-tacky housing that all looks the same and sterile little parks where you can’t even let your dog off the leash for a few minutes without someone yelling at you or informing the authorities.

Whitehorse has so much to offer: stunning scenery, a relatively small but highly educated population, many pristine waterways, and real wilderness right at people’s doorsteps.

Why, I’ve seen otters, moose and even wolves within a 15-minute walk of my backyard on Boswell Crescent. (There, I’ve declared my conflict of interest, so you can rest easy.)

But do we try to capitalize on these things? No. We ignore them, or worse yet, systematically destroy them in pursuit of that phantom we call progress.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against growth. But I am against growth for growth’s sake, the unfettered kind that more often than not ends up laying waste to the natural world.

In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond shows how some civilizations in effect committed suicide by plundering their environments.

We all know we are living beyond our means. If you still think our way of life is sustainable, you are dangerously delusional, wilfully blind, or both.

But it can be, and it should be, even here in Whitehorse, if we start using common sense and demand our politicians and bureaucrats at every level of government start acting in our own best long-range interests, and stop kowtowing every single time to those who want to wring every last buck from the natural world, and in the process wreck all the things that brought many of us up here in the first place.

Every time I see a coyote or eagle or arctic tern on my walk to work, I feel sorry for all those people who live in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, which some day will find it almost impossible to attract and retain residents due to the traffic, smog and high cost of housing. I honestly do.

Unless they travel great distances to the less densely populated parts of their respective provinces, most will never get to experience the natural world the way we do on a daily basis.

And even then, they might never get to see what I see most mornings, because the wetlands, forests and meadows down south are being replaced by industrial development and urban sprawl at an alarming pace.

You probably think I’m mixing apples and oranges here.

But consider this: If we confine our children to groomed parks and fenced schoolyards all the time, we will not only deprive them of much pleasure, they might never develop an appreciation for the many splendours of the natural world, and the myriad comforts it has to offer us on so many levels.

Let’s keep the greenbelts. In fact, let’s create even more so that this city becomes the envy of the country, maybe even the world, for its great wealth of outdoor recreational opportunities.

Let’s not try to be like Toronto Vancouver or Calgary, and see how many people we can cram into the smallest possible space. Let’s dare to be different, before it’s too late. (PL)

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