Our View: At Middle Road, Support (Family) Conservation

Opinion

Over the years, we’ve used this space many times to urge Chatham voters to support open space purchases, for the purpose of protecting our aquifer, saving critical wildlife habitat and providing wild spaces for the public to enjoy. Like many voters, we appreciate the need for land conservation to help protect the Cape’s ecology.

But it’s helpful to remember that ecology is about the relationship between the environment and the organisms that live there. Among the organisms that deserve conservation are humans, specifically people who are struggling to live and work in our communities and raise families here. Town-owned land can provide a home for species like the Eastern box turtle, but it can also help year-round working families. A lack of affordable and attainable habitat is causing a human population decline here, too.

We’ve tortured this metaphor enough. But consider this: conservation is a key tenet of sustainability. Setting aside land for affordable and attainable housing is preserving a key resource, the people who run local businesses, work in health care offices, prepare our restaurant meals, teach our children and answer the call in emergencies.

It’s a false dichotomy to think that town-owned land off Middle Road must be saved either for housing or for open space conservation. Even the most ambitious housing proposals for the land have reserved tracts of unspoiled woodlands, and the important wetlands habitat on the parcel is already protected by law. In short, there’s plenty of room for a carefully designed housing development on the land – close to Middle Road where it would have the least impact – in addition to deed-restricted conservation land.

We urge town officials to advance a thoughtful plan that preserves some of the 19 acres in perpetuity for wildlife while saving a share for affordable and workforce housing units.