Brookline Tab/ Op Ed

I wish to speak a word for solitude.

When I walk around the Brookline Reservoir, I like to journey alone. Occasionally, I will invite my IPod. When I finally launch myself into orbit and, as Thoreau would say, “leave the dust of the Village behind,” I find myself alone with my thoughts. Perhaps a poem or idea will come to me. Perhaps I’ll see a hawk.

For these reasons, I have to say “No” to fall high school crew practice and a coach’s motorboat on our modest body of water. When I first read of this proposal and of the town hearing scheduled to consider it, I actually thought that this was a joke and that I was the victim of hoax. If so, the jokes on me, and congratulations go out to the hoaxers. You pulled it off!

But if this is for real, here are some thoughts:

First, let us hear no more of motorboats. A “small motorboat” on a small reservoir equals a big motorboat on a larger lake. How many Brookline residents approved when George Bush eviscerated the rules limiting snowmobile use in our national parks? Not many, I’d guess. Reservoir walkers already have to contend with the hum from Rt. 9. We do not need a small motorboat engine intruding into our solitary saunters and meditative musings. Neither, for that matter, do the diving Hooded Merganser ducks need to be discouraged from paying a visit to our town during their fall migration. That is the season, after all, when water birds migrate. Yes?

The boat crews, the dock, and the boathouse will bring their own noise and visual pollution, and this in the very shadow of Frederick Law Olmstead’s home. Can you imagine what the Central Park Conservancy would do with this idea? What is currently going on at the Reservoir is far too important to disrupt, though admittedly it has nothing to do with competition or achievement.

We want to support our children in every possible way. I had two kids who went through our schools and I appreciate all that my fellow citizens made possible. This is why I still vote for Prop 2 ½ overrides. A substantial portion of our green space has already been given over to rec leagues and school sports teams. Our town pool is occasionally used exclusively by the high school swimming team. All good. But, sadly, sometimes we have to say no to our children.

The relatively small percentage of BHS students who row can practice during the fall on Concept 2 rowing machines. I know that’s how BU athletes keep in off-season shape, because I purchased one of their old machines. Or have the town make a reciprocal deal with Boston, providing access to Downes Field for their students in return for our use of Jamaica Pond, which is larger and already has a dock and boats.

Honestly, I don’t think the high school should even have made its request. Ten years ago, I was privileged to be a part of the community campaign to save the Coolidge Corner Movie House. I told everyone who would listen that saving our cultural space was every bit as important as preserving our green space. I never thought that one day I’d have to urge that the converse be considered.

On behalf of all the silent quiet water watchers, all the dreaming poets, all the lost-in-thought walkers, all the reflective goose poop giant slalom steppers, all the head-over-heals lovers of books and nature, I ask that this proposal be rejected.

My fellow citizen of Brookline, do not ask me to lend you my ears.

All I want is your silence, to which I promise to add my own.

-September 17, 2009



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