Run For Your Lives

There's always so much going on here in the summer that typically I would take three months off from any creative work. Winter is good for that on Cape Cod. You either get yourself a project to work on for nine months, or develop a drinking problem. Some people decide to split their time between both options. Your mileage may vary.

Still, like watching a Connecticut SUV as it attempts to parallel park facing the wrong direction on a rainy July day on Main Street, there are some summertime occurrences that just cannot be ignored.

great white sharkToothy Things

Oh, yay, there are sharks around. Big news. Such a headline. What this is about is that local television news likes to show stock video of sharks because they know viewers will then expect to hear something terrible and not switch to something equally as relevant like the latest has-been star with a reality show.

What I want to know is are we going to stop giving the television trucks a free pass to every prime parking space in town? They hang out for days down at the fish pier where only fishermen are allowed, or down at the lighthouse taking up two parking space by placing traffic cones around themselves, while everyone else is given 30 minutes or a $50 ticket. They're covering a non-story, and just causing everyone to be phoned frantically by friends in other parts of country, warning we better not dip our toes in water at the Oyster Pond beach.

And it would be refreshing for local officials and the walking-ham-moonlighting-as- a-state employee Greg Skomal to start consistently telling the out-of-town hyperventilating media, "Sorry, there's no story here. The ocean has lots of different fish. All this talk is about nothing and is taking me away from the real work the public pays me for, so I don't have any more to say."

Garden Spot

My earliest memory of school was waiting for the bus down at the end of Lime Hill Road, across from the end of Old Queen Anne Road and Route 28. We lived down at the other end, nearly half a mile away. With Peter Milley and Chris Dearborn, I'd wait in that godforsaken spot on the corner, unable to see the approaching bus because the grade of Lime Hill Road dips down and the bend of Main Street to the west. There was no shelter. The morning traffic on 28 was loud. What I remember most was, it was windy and cold.

Peter lived across Route 28 from Small theFlorist(whatisnowAgway). Chris'was across from the Sea in the Rough (currently Marley's). We spent a lot of time together, at that bus stop and otherwise, ranging through the fields and woods in the area. OneplaceIalmostneverrememberplaying was the lot that is now being considered for the community gardens, described by a proponent as a "vacant lot."

Funny, don't we typically spend tons of money to buy such real estate, but call it "open space?"

It was an overgrown cranberry bog, covered in briars, and often wet. Of course, at that time, the grade was the same as the road. But there were times I'd be waiting for the bus that I'd notice a new pile of fill had come in the middle of the night. The lot was owned by the Smalls who also owned the small flower shop and were inviting in solid fill to make it useable. Not something that would pass muster with the conservation commission today.

Nobody really knows what was dumped there through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s while the Smalls owned it. But the filling ramped up when the Streiberts bought it, and raised the grade so high than Lime Hill Road began to wash out and break down from the constant flow of water from that lot, across the road to the duck pond in front of the much-expanded garden center that is now Agway. The filling was at last halted by the conservation commission to protect the adjacent wetland, but the land was never required to be put back the way it had been before their filling. Try cutting down trees along the shore and see if you'd get the same treatment.

Every attempt has been made by the Streiberts to expand parking for Agway onto this filled wetland. This community garden idea is definitely their most disingenuous. The group advancing this would only be tenants. And it is a pretty thorny issue to base zoning and site plans and variances and conservation decisions on a tenant, rather than the owner. In this case, the end result would be 20 parking spaces - the garden plots would be incidental and temporary. Once the lease would end, those 20 spaces would call out to be used more fully, mostly likely for condos.

Because why else would you put a garden plot that is drained onto by a busy state highway and an adjacent restaurant parking lot, abutting a sewer pumping station which, if it failed, could flood the lot with cadmium and render it a Superfund site? Of course, it is already a dump. At best, it is nothing but six feet of sand sitting on a bog, and only tons and tons of nitrogen-laden fertilizer will render it farmable. It is a completely horrible spot for a terrific idea, and it is sad that some wellmeaning people have been drawn into this cynical scheme to inevitably commercialize what was and should be allowed to return to being a wetland.

School's Out

We're now hearing that there may not be any cost savings if Chatham and Harwich merged school systems. Considering that was the main incentive for Chatham to do so, one would think this would pretty much stop the idea. Except there's a committee in place to facilitate this, and God, if there isn't anything more resolute than a group of volunteers with a regular meeting schedule under fluorescent lights and PowerPoint presentations.

The only things that seem to be understood are that Chatham will lose direct local control over its school budget, and the high school will move 10 miles away to Harwich. No money savings means none of those state-of-the-art labs, multiple college prep courses, or top-level sports teams. Not that any of this was ever really going to happen. Consolidation was not a cure for any coming fiscal woes - it was simply a postponement.

Consolidation is an idea that has come and gone. Many people worked very hard to pay through the nose for a house in Chatham because they wanted their kids to go to school in Chatham. Small is good. Kids like small. Teachers like small. Parents like small. It is why we get so many school choice students from all over the Cape coming to us. But the state wants big. Supposedly big is more efficient. Yes, let's take a lesson in the wise use of tax dollars from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Read this and Andy's other columns online at The Cape Cod Chronicle.

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