Saturday, April 3, 2010
They Paved Over Paradise
When we moved into this house, more than five years ago now, our little neighborhood was somewhat off the beaten path. There are only 64 homes in our development, which used to be farmland. There were no other developments bordering ours; only older farmhouses and a golf course. We were a block off the through-street, but it still felt a little "rural". Heck, we only had a yellow blinking light at our corner. We figured with the older homes and the golf course, we'd be pretty secluded for several years. Turns out, we were wrong.
First came the big housing bubble a couple years ago. The farmhouses between us and the through-street sold. The two on the corner were knocked down to put in more townhouses, more dense than our neighborhood, which turned out to be a rental complex. The other two were sold and knocked down, too. We hear they're planning an assisted living facility for that space. Most of the old trees and bushes were torn out and chipped; apple and pear trees, some beautiful old cherry and walnut trees. Even the grapevines that grew over the barriers at the end of the street were torn out. A few along the through-street were left; just enough to remind us that this was once "the country."
Well, at least the golf course would still be there, right? With all of it's beautiful fir trees, giant Sequoias, cherry trees, and creek, right? Apparently, wrong. That golf course isn't municipal; it belongs to the Elk Club. And like many fraternal organizations, has seen it's membership dwindle in recent years. Young people are not so interested in joining those groups as they used to be; they no longer offer the business connections once made by being a part of those large groups. Those connections are now made on computers in social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin. And with the economic crash, the golf course no longer brought in sufficient funds to support the Elks' good works; it barely supported the maintenance on their aging facilities. So they sold it. To a developer. Eventually, the golf course will be bulldozed and replaced by 250 homes and a shopping center.
For the past five years, our through-street has borne more and more traffic. It was widened to 4-lanes near the highway to accommodate shopping and industrial areas, but most if it remained narrow 2-lanes. Remember, this was farmland, so not only is it narrow, there aren't any curbs, sidewalks, or streetlights. It retains only a hint of the center yellow striping and almost none of the edge paint; it dips to a low-water bridge to cross the creek and swerves around old property lines. In the rainy winter season, with no streetlights and glaring headlights, we used to pray that there wasn't a pedestrian or bicyclist on the road because we'd never see them in time to stop. It was so bad that we started to see bumper stickers that read, "Pray for me; I drive ********* **** Road."
Meanwhile, more houses were built around us, more shopping centers added or expanded. Our yellow blinking light on the corner was replaced with regular 3-color ones for all directions. The traffic became bumper to bumper on those two lanes; and not just during rush hour, but pretty much around the clock.
The city and county have now decided it's time to widen the street to 4-lanes all the way through and replace the bridge. They'll also be adding curbs and sidewalks and streetlights. We watched them survey and put in stakes and orange markers and little yellow flags a couple weeks ago. Neighborhood trees and shrubs were sporting big splotches of white paint, marking them to be cut down to make room. The remaining fruit trees on our side of the through street were the first to go. The chipper ran for one entire day. The 70+ year old house across the street lost all its camellias, azaleas, and rhododendrons that gave it privacy and cut down the noise from all the traffic. The giant Sequoia on our corner went down to make room for the sidewalks and steel posts for the lights.
Remember the golf course across from us? On that corner, opposite ours and sitting pretty far back, is a huge cherry tree that must be over 100 years old. It's trunk is probably 10 feet around. The developer's plans showed that it was going to stay; the last remnant of "the country" in our neighborhood. The surveyors markers were well in front it. It might lose some branches to make room for the relocated electric lines, but at least it would remain. Now, the cherry tree has white paint on it's trunk. The county has decided that all those new homes will need a turn lane and the cherry tree is in the way.
This doesn't feel like progress.