by Ashea Mills October 28, 2008
You don’t know it, but I am looking down at your house right now. I am the bird in the sky, the small plane headed to Chicago and beyond. I get to see the stupendous aerial view of all that surrounds you, and my friends, it is magnificent.
I’m sorry to be leaving. It’s a perfect fall day, mostly blue skies, a few puffball clouds, mid 60’s. Family calls, so I’ll miss this perfect Montana week, but flying out over it, watching the land fall away…what a treat! The dominant features on the landscape are the curvaceous folds, the land rippling below as we bank away from Gallatin Field towards Livingston. The mountains ahead are looming closer, with the Bridgers off our port side.
On my side, looking down and south, I am running parallel to Trail Creek, seeing where it sashays into Paradise Valley. The valley itself is a sweeping sigh, an open space of clustered trees along watercourses, and glimpses of homes here and there. The broad basin of the valley almost seems at odds with the jagged saw toothed Absorokas.
I can see the Tetons piercing the haze to the south, and most of what I love is between them and I: my partner, my home, my friends, my mountains.
Now I am over the 90 degree bend the braided, winding Yellowstone River takes through Livingston. The river is steely and low this fall day. Town looks as sweet from this vantage point as it does while standing on Main Street, looking into the mountainous gloam at dusk, storefronts twinkling like a scene from a movie or a book.
And now, the crinkly folds of Absoroka peaks give way to the broad, flat top mesas of the Beartooth Plateau, already graced with this season’s base layer of snow.
What a view! What a gift to be able to see our home from up here! But my heart is weighing heavy with the impending choice we must make. I am of the opinion that when I fly eastward out of Bozeman in 20 years, when I take my starboard seat on purpose, because I love this quick and rare aerial glimpse of home, I want the mountains, the valley and the river to dominate my view.
Others do not share this opinion. There is a group of so-called “Concerned Citizens” that would very much like to be able to build whenever and however, values, views and history be dammed. They would like to have you believe that new development on the banks of the river and tops of dry canyons is good for us all, and that you and I shouldn’t mind higher taxes to pay for services to remote and scattered home sites.
One of the main reasons I fell in love with this area is that it still feels real. There is an authenticity to Park County that is lacking elsewhere. The working ranches and farms, their toil and struggle and rewards are a part of the fabric of what makes this area unique. Trophy homes in place of them are what ruins it.
Looking out on the landscape and seeing open space, feeling the wind (oh, yes, the wind,) having an unobstructed view of the big sky we all value…watching the calves grow burly in spring, while the alfalfa greens up…hunting for the winter’s food in fall, following the river’s seasonal surges and declines with the ebbs and flows in our own lives…This is what it means to live in Park County.
Maybe you’re from here, or maybe you moved here because you found yourself feeling more at home here than anywhere else in the world. Either way, we can all appreciate why we love it. I suppose then, it follows that we can see why others would too. Development will occur, and others will want to share in this most magnificent place, bordered by a world destination park, and countless opportunities for fishing, hiking, hunting and biking. Okay, so we get it. But does that mean everyone who comes in can build a monstrous house that impacts the view for miles around? Or take water away from agriculture to build a golf course that we aren’t even invited to? I vehemently say no.
Park County will see growth and that can be a very positive and necessary force. We all want opportunities and a sound economy. If current trends continue, Park County will see 2,100 new homes and 5,000 new residents in less than 20 years. We must decide now, as a community, how we want that to look. This isn’t about whether or not you can raise chickens, or if the garage door should be shut on Sundays. A local growth policy ( a non-regulatory guide, no less) can never trump Constitutional law. Your property rights are safe. This is, however, the defining moment for how Park County will look from a plane, or from a peak, or driving down East River Road in ten or twenty years.
We do have choices. A couple months ago, we were coming out of camping in the Crazy Mountains. We stopped in to enjoy a perfect brunch at The Grand Hotel in Big Timber. Lazing in the lobby afterward, I noticed a small pamphlet titled “The Sweet Grass Code of the West”. It was informative and inspiring. It talks about how the homes that have endured and weathered well are the ones tucked down in draws, protected from buffeting wind rather than posted on top of a hill for all to see. It mentions a rich and storied history and how that bonds the community to their past and future. It speaks to traditional agricultural use, the value of clean water and recreation, the value of community. Sweet Grass County comes right out and says, “These are the values we hold true. Our Growth Policy will protect these values.”
I am probably somewhere over the Dakotas now. It is beautiful in its own way, quilted as it is with its own lives and work and histories below. But it ain’t no Park County. There’s no place like home.
Folks, we can do this. Pass the Growth Policy on Nov. 4th. It is not a painful process. It only seeks to enhance what we already know and have decided. It allows for public process. It allows local residents to decide how our future will look, not a small group of opponents to any planning at all.
In the past weeks, you may have heard people say that the County Commissioners have changed the “People’s Plan” into the “Commissioners Plan.” This is an attempt to fool the public into having no plan at all. The Growth Plan has been worked on for many years and truly reflects the will of Park County residents. Opponents to having a plan are focusing on three wording changes that make no practical difference to the overall plan, but simply bring it into state compliance. They want to create a smokescreen that prevents us from moving forward. We simply need to vote yes on the Growth Plan to get it passed and get on with the business of ensuring our way of life for the future.
We will all benefit from forethought and planning. If your goals are to protect and support agriculture, clean water, and a strong economy, vote yes on the Growth Policy. If scenic preservation, history, recreation, wildlife and a sound future in Park County are important to you, please vote YES on the Growth Policy.
And then get out there and enjoy it.
Ashea Mills has worked as a naturalist and educator for over 15 years, and has been guiding and teaching in Yellowstone National Park since 1998. Ashea is currently an instructor for the Yellowstone Association Institute and a frequent contributor to regional publications of articles relating to geology, flora, fauna, and history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
BRING FAMILY AND FRIENDS.
In a tough political season, it’s good to remember that we are all neighbors and there is much that unites us, like good food, music and dancing. Everyone is welcome!
Music by John David (J. D.) Souther and Grammy winner Raul Malo. Speakers include Dorothy Bradley, former MT State legislator and candidate for governor, and Major General Donald Loranger, USAF Retired, and member of Republicans for Obama. SATURDAY, October 11, 3PM to 6PM at the Livingston Depot 200 W Park St, Livingston, MT.
UPDATE: Senator John Tester and Broad Comedy will be at this event. The Boston Globe said this about Broad Comedy: “Sharp writing, playful performances and impeccable comic timing! The fun is infectious!” Gloria Steinem said “Broad Comedy will help you laugh at the bastards — thus lengthening your life and shortening theirs.”
Download the flyer. Click the image at right to enlarge.
About the music:
J. D. Souther is a country rock singer-songwriter and actor, as well as a multi instrumentalist. Souther is probably best known for his well crafted songwriting abilities, especially in the field of country rock. He co-wrote some of the biggest hits for the Eagles, including “Best of My Love”, “Victim of Love”, “Heartache Tonight”, and “New Kid in Town”. He also wrote songs for several of Ronstadt’s multi-platinum albums, including “Faithless Love” from Heart Like a Wheel and “White Rhythm and Blues” included in her Living in the USA album. He also recorded several notable duets with Ronstadt, including “Hearts Against the Wind,” “Prisoner in Disguise,” and “Sometimes You Can’t Win.” He wrote “Run Like a Thief,” which appeared on Home Plate by Bonnie Raitt. He was a contributor on the Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night 1987 concert and video, sang The Platters’ “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” in the 1989 movie Always and sang the theme song to the 1989-1992 sitcom Anything But Love.
“Force of nature Raul Malo wraps his husky vocals around everything like he owns the copyright on heartbreak,” says Entertainment Weekly. Best known as the founder and frontman of Grammy-winning, multiplatinum band The Mavericks, Raul’s talent has proven to be ever expanding, and in the last couple of years he has established himself as a solo artist, as a producer and musical director and as a member of the super-group Los Super Seven. “Raul Malo could sing a tax form and make an auditor believe every word.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Here’s a chance to hear a genuine Maverick, one with talent and integrity.
They’re at it again. The Palin-McCain campaign will do anything to keep Sarah Palin from facing the press and the voters:
They are claiming unfairness based on the fact that moderator Gwen Ifill has a book coming out in January 2009 that talks about race in politics and how the Obama campaign has influenced that. It is a non-partisan book and Ifill is an evenhanded and fair journalist.
More on Gwen Ifill’s book. [Excerpt from the article below. Emphasis mine.]
“Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama” — first announced several months ago — is slated to be released around the inauguration of the next president in January 2009.
In the book, Ifill takes a look at the black political movement’s beginnings during the Civil Rights movement that gave way “to a generation of men and women who are the direct beneficiaries of the struggles of the 1960s,” according to Amazon.com.