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 Smallwood-Mongaup valley

The Mixing of Old and New

James Loney
Posted 9/3/21

With the advent of Labor Day, another summer has run its course here in Mongaup Valley and in Smallwood. Already you will have experienced that singular morning when you first drive out from Plank or …

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 Smallwood-Mongaup valley

The Mixing of Old and New

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With the advent of Labor Day, another summer has run its course here in Mongaup Valley and in Smallwood. Already you will have experienced that singular morning when you first drive out from Plank or Creamery or Pine Grove Road and look ahead to a totally empty stretch of road. EMPTY ROAD? September is here.

The summer has been a season of great change hereabouts, much of it born under the unrelenting pressure exerted on us all by the morphing Covid pandemic. Many people have taken advantage of exploding home prices to sell their homes and then departed the area for warmer climes.

Real estate abhors a vacuum and this exodus has simultaneously drawn a large number of new people into the midst of our pre-existing and rather sparsely-populated rural community. With so much mixing of old and new, power and penury, social churn is inevitable. Old-timers insist that things remain “the same,” while newcomers struggle to understand existing customs, traditions, and assumptions. Things that seemed settled up here in the rural are suddenly questioned from new angles based on differing assumptions. Anxiety and fear follow. And fear—always the most primitive, basic and reptilian of human emotions—creates tension and even anger. Only human, we are heirs to our humanity. Maybe we, all of us, need to step back, take a deep breath, pause, and hum, “It ain’t necessarily so!” Nothing so calms my heart and soul up here in Sullivan when times are tough than to rouse myself (the hardest part of the process) and look around at the wonders of what I call “Motherland,” this green land which gives us our daily milk and daily honey. Let’s try again—one more time and then a thousand more times!—to understand “the other:” the newcomer, the oldtimer, the one whose trans-tresses are green-and-purple, the tried-and-true, the cross and the mala, the nascent-and-yet-to-be.

— I end with this important piece of news. Unbeknownst to most of us, a Canadian business organization called BESIDE appeared this past May 3rd before the Bethel Town Planning Board to express great interest in purchasing a piece of land contiguous with and about the size of Smallwood. BESIDE intends to establish 36 year-round camping spots and 62 permanent homes to the south and east of Smallwood on forested lands close to our sacred and preserved wetlands. The development will put a lot of pressure on Smallwood aquifers, Pine Grove Road, and Mountain Lake. A group of Smallwoodians calling themselves SmART (Smallwood Aware Residents Team) have constituted themselves to monitor this potential development, which could transform our Hamlet. As someone deeply concerned about our environment, I promise to report on this project in future for the SCD. A development of this enormous scale will, potentially, affect every aspect of life in Smallwood, both as we know it (the old) and as we want it (the new). Reader: be well and love everyone you know and have yet to know by getting that FDA-approved vaccine.

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Denise Connolly

Thanks, James, for the info regarding BESIDE project. I was not aware of it. I sent Town of Bethel Supervisor Danny Sturm an email telling him "NOOOOOO to Beside, especially not near our Forest Reserve!"

Friday, September 3