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Enough Already! How Do We Protect Wild Spaces?

Urban planning at the South Philly Meadows

As a child I grew up on a small farm in a rural area outside of Baltimore, Maryland. Open land surrounded us, but little by little the developers came. Over the years I watched my treasured wild spaces turn into residential communities. As the bulldozers tore into the trees and opened the red earth, I began sneaking out at night and tearing out the surveyor's stakes.

This did not go over well at home, as my father was a civil engineer who supervised road projects, and stakes were a big deal. In the end the only thing I accomplished was getting myself into hot water, and my father was old-school, so it wasn't a good place to be. Eventually I left home and didn't have to look at it anymore.

When I moved to the Philadelphia area more than twenty years ago, I consoled myself that at least it was so built up that I wouldn't have to witness such destruction again, but I was wrong. It seems there is no avoiding this repeating pattern—too many of us possess the drive to carve up uncultivated spaces for human consumption.

Groundhog escaping earth movers.

This past spring as I rode the commuter train into the city, I could not believe it when I looked out of the window one day to see that the management of the Cobbs Creek Golf Course had laid waste to their trees—giant evergreens, sycamores, oaks. Apparently razing 100s of mature trees was part of their "restoration" plan. Community members protested, but it was too late. We could only grieve.

And then before I could catch my breath, the pattern repeated this past summer in an fallow golf course in South Philadelphia's Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. (It seems that aging golf courses are the new frontier for urban earth movers.) Area residents knew this was coming; they protested at public meetings to no avail. Now, despite having witnessed this too many times, I have no advice. I don't know how to fix it, and I don't know how to talk to people who don't see the need to protect untamed landscapes.

The only positive I have found is that some, like Philadelphia artist, Kate Kern Mundie, work to make sure we do not forget what was lost. Please read the link below which tells the story of how her art became a protest. Some selections of these works are on exhibit at the F.A.N. Gallery in Old City Philadelphia.

Kate Kern Mundie—Artist and her "Rest" collection of paintings remembering the South Philly Meadows

Have you had the experience of losing a wild space? Please share.

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