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Letter to the editor: Town’s health is in jeopardy

Here in Middlebury, Vt., it appears that too many of us are taking our health for granted, including the health of our environment. If this continues we will find ourselves with serious life threatening conditions, on macro and micro scales. It’s happened to me, to people I know, and it’s happening to our environment on a town level and beyond. We think so highly of ourselves and the way we do things and take such pride in our state, our town, and who we are that we assume the beautiful healthy environment of Middlebury and of our personal health can’t easily deteriorate bit by bit to dangerous levels.
This phenomenon has resulted in environmental degradation that effects me personally. It concerns something I fought against from the first day the public had an opportunity to be aware that Vermont Gas intended to install fracked gas pipelines in Middlebury. At its April 24 meeting, the Middlebury selectboard issued a right of way permit to Vermont Gas for a bunch of neighborhood roads including School House Hill Road. School House Hill Road is where I walk almost daily to abide by my doctors orders: a brisk walk at least three times a week for at least thirty minutes to reduce stress.
Many people use this road recreationally, to walk their dogs, and for health reasons — many of the same people who opposed the fracked gas pipeline. Vermont Gas is currently under investigation for the lack of safety in how they have installed their pipeline and for rate and cost overruns. I no longer take my health for granted and the ongoing investigation provides good reason to feel unsafe walking along the pipeline route, with its potential for leaking gas and explosions.
One of my biggest concerns though is the locust trees alongside the road. It would not only grieve me terribly to lose their beauty, their oxygen, their protection from
the noise and the wind of the airport field, their filtering of the water and keeping of the soil, but it would also be another thing that would hurt our bees and pollinators. The blooms of the locust trees are very valuable for bee forage, both native bees and honeybees love to visit locusts tree blooms.
Speaking of grief, which is a triggering factor in a certain very popular disease I’ve gotten to know, there is a lot to grief lately. Without listing all the obvious things in the news, I’ll state the less obvious: grief for the loss of trees. We lost two beautiful old locust trees for the town offices. New construction often means losing trees. I have officially asked that we replace treasured trees removed for construction. A mature tree is worth more than a sapling — to adequately replace a tree takes decades of stewardship.
I believe neighborhoods should have a greater say in what happens on their roads. I don’t want to see any trees harmed on the road I walk on. I want to continue to enjoy their beauty and cleansing action as I now realize how they help purify my heart, which is so pained by the increasingly hostile environment of Middlebury, Vt., a place I still love and am proud of. If you see me walking on School House Hill I’ll be trying to reclaim my health, process grief, remain functional in a dysfunctional world — or possibly I’ll have to take my walk somewhere else.
Driving down Weybridge Street from Otter View Park I made up this song remembering some recent history of the street: There used to be a house there, but it burnt down/ there used to be a school there but enrollment dwindled/ there used to be a tree there but they put in a pipe/ things are changing but not the way I’d like.
Alice Eckles
Middlebury

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