On Tuesday I visited High Falls and Triple Falls with one of those folks responsible for keeping this treasure public.
Before it was a state forest, most of the land belonged to DuPont Industries which had a huge plant there. During this time, DuPont maintained the forest as a recreational site for its employees and people in the area.
But by 2002, the plant was closed. A developer bought a large tract of the land, including the falls, planning to turn these natural wonders into selling points for a gated community.
Local residents who had all their lives enjoyed access to the pristine beauty of the falls were told that that the forest would no longer be open to the public. Nineteen of those residents decided to fight against this and formed The Friends of the Falls.
My friend Aleen Steinberg was one of this intrepid group. (Aleen is also one of the driving forces behind Muddy Sneakers -- the nature education program I blogged about HERE.)
Aleen and the Friends of the Falls staged a homegrown PR campaign, targeting civic groups, Scouts, hunters and fishermen, nature lovers, the Audubon Society, anyone who might have an interest in keeping the falls open to the public. They sent over 4,000 emails and letters to the governor’s office.
“Our rallying cry was ‘Save it for the people, not the privileged few,'" Aleen told me.
The Friends worked tirelessly and at last the state condemned the land and settled with the developer to purchase his original tract.
So it was that because of the work of this small group of thoughtful, committed citizens, I was able to see for myself the beauty of High Falls and Triple Falls -- in the company of any number of happy hikers and nature lovers.
After the feeling of frustration I've been experiencing during the past weeks, a visit to DuPont Forest was a wonderful reminder that now and then government can get it right -- when we, the people, keep after them.
Thanks, Aleen, not just for the great picnic and the pleasant company, but for the example you set!