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“Oh Daddy won’t you take me back to Muhlenberg County, down by the Green River where Paradise lays?
Well I’m sorry my son but you’re too late in askin’; Mr. Peabody’s coal train has hauled it away.”
Maybe you haven’t noticed, but lately they’ve been hauling away some parts of our mountains.
It’s been going on for a long time, of course. The Arapahos came up here and took a few trees for lodgepoles (hence the name), and they hunted the elk, sheep, bear, wolves, coyotes and deer, trapped the beaver and weasels, but those were, at the time, renewable resources and they were careful about them. The miners took what little gold there was, left a few slag heaps and moved on.
More ominously, however, we’ve been making more permanent changes. We’ve had a big peat mining operation in the center of the valley. Peat takes several hundred thousand years to form and now it’s gone and you and I aren’t going to see it again.
The east side of the Twin Sisters, just outside the Park annex, has been heavily logged — clear cut in some places, with the blessing of the Forest Service. It’s hard to tell what the effect of that will be.
Recently we’ve taken to selling moss (actually lichen) rock by the ton. It’s hauled out on flatbed trucks and sold to people all along the Front Range to decorate their homes. About $5000 worth was recently given to the Estes Park hospital. A nice gesture (and a nice tax deduction, considering it’s just rock).
Now, faithful readers know I’m in favor of progress and I leave things like wetlands and sanitation issues to Phil Stern, our resident environmentalist and toilet expert. As far as I’m concerned, people who own land can do pretty much anything they want to with it, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
But hauling away parts of the valley that took hundreds of thousands or millions of years to create worries me; these things can’t be replaced. In a sense we’re just caretakers of this place, which many have called Paradise, for our children and grandchildren. I’m glad my grandfather felt that way about our land. It’s probably true I wouldn’t miss the rocks or trees if I didn’t know they’d been sold, but I’m glad he didn’t do it.
What’s a few rocks? What’s a little peat? I’m not sure. I just don’t want us to be “too late in askin’.”
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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