Sunday, August 31, 2014


Stone from the job site at the Green River covered bridge
 August 2014

Dear K —

I attempted to describe why we can't be quite physically involved with the Green River citizen group to you in my last letter. It's a delicate question, in fact a quandary, since we're dealing with some individuals who have worked to this day at abusive tactics against us, and what's worse, they work these tactics in a lynch-mob smear, with a great deal of personal prejudice. This can be worked out in a professional capacity as many have to do in their jobs, we've all been there. But when you watch the same tactics being leveled against you as a couple, and your own persuasion is to forever work with people, no matter the differences, there is no "mustering" here, it's bad business. I've already overly detailed to you by letter the case by case point with key individuals in this GR group, who not only purposely left us off the GR list of people at their initial first meeting, the community organizer then went to some length at essentially blaming you for not having our names included! This happens daily on the professional level, where workers all attempt to find some sort of staccato harmony; it's deadly on a personal and neighborhood level.

Obviously this bunch have been allowed to run roughshod with us, and paint us as difficult, deceptive, divisive, deriding and every other "d" work in the book, with basically selectman Richard Clark's approval (he did the same against us with another town employee) and life is supposed to go merrily-along. It doesn't. It's also a shame since the GR group are hoping to gain a fraternal quorum, so some of this past trouble could be healed by coming to speak with us and admit to their corrosive behavior, wishing to end it now and move forward with a mending and better habit of cooperation. Not only do we not see this, we see people wishing to bear down and make things worse and worse.

In the meantime, we continue to write letters, and I write my essays and post these on the Birdhouse and I send all of this to everyone in the GR group. These key players, of course, say nothing.

Instead we see exaggerations, dangerous ones:

A covered bridge is closed down for only three months and while the work site should have had foot traffic access for the public to move through during the construction, it is only three months, with proper detours, and still we watch both a town and a citizenry work like a chicken with its head cut off complaining or avoiding the obvious: stay calm, the bridge will open, take your kids to school in a car, or ford the river as you can, we're all trying to work together. Asking for tax breaks, and whining that there are less services, which is really stretching things, all sums up a public image with an embarrassing lack of independence.

Only Anne Rider of anyone on the selectboard is listening; the other two members have their minds made up about not only the Green River covered bridge but their only alternative — stuck in their brain pans — a new bridge it is. Nothing will sway this. This isn't a viable brain trust. You can see at the latest meetings the squad of construction workers and big business of Guilford are hardly present as they were in the opening salvos. They are simply waiting for the second bridge to get applied. Mr. Minott is doing his ever best to supply this by providing access to cut into an edge of his land for this new bridge on the western side of River Road where a broader swing will be required to turn off any bridge; but he is mum, in fact impatient and frantic, about the genius idea of a bypass that includes his land. This isn't a citizen thinking truly of other citizens, the town folk, the town budget! and the greater care of a river valley and its solace.

Minott also makes his play for this Bailey Bridge plan as an immediate service after all meetings are curtained and in the waning moments of the final meeting last Monday. He speaks plainly with the selectboard as if it's a private meeting, and a deal is improperly being cut. He states at the meeting "let's just put it in by Spring." Amazing. Meaning a temporary bridge. This may be where someone might see cheaters at work. We did. Steve Lembke at least had the wherewithal to slip back into this tete-a-tete of Minott's with his selectboard cronies, listening and adding some two-cents, but while thoughtful, it's meaningless. Lembke isn't even aware that Clark is simply using him and seducing him along to keep the peace for the town on the River Road while they ram this new bridge alternative through. This is what I meant in my previous letter about "tissue boxes" in each corner and a general mild questioning by the GR group to the town. The ONLY firm and activist philosophy we see in evidence is the determination by chairman Clark at shutting down the covered bridge as a full access entity and hauling in almost anything to make a second bridge. Like the footbridge, it's more litter. Further exaggeration.

Exaggerations continue with a footbridge being constructed at a time when we have TWO months left, if not less time, before the covered bridge may be opened for foot traffic. This isn't a dainty footbridge neither. It's a little too heavy, can actually hold a motorcycle or a band of them if it wishes to. The footbridge is improper to say the least for canoe and kayak passage. It's already a burden for any thought of ice jam, flood, hurricane (remember those?), storms. And what remains in question is any liability factor due to any accident. Again, the town planners for the most part love all this since it takes responsibility off their backs; liability falls onto all those involved in the village and River Road, and any forum for real opposition against any litter on the river is nowhere in evidence . . .except, we hope, with the engineers and better planners out there.

And none of this is to belittle the hard work and achievement of both Alex Bell and Steve Lembke and others to make-do an access for now. But it's another example of exaggeration, forced onto the citizens by terrible planning and communication by everyone involved at not recognizing it isn't our immediate wishes that is involved here, but maintaining the wholeness of where and how we live.

After witnessing the two meetings held last Monday with the selectboard and town folk and the rash of shoddy plans by some to yank a Bailey Bridge into immediate existence, crash through a natural woodlands, with a serious wetland issue, we thought it best to contact our friend Eleanor VanWaveren who once owned this property, certainly cared for decades this property, and who is intimate with the trust who now owns this parcel. This then took us to the attorney representing this property in the hopes of establishing a proper alliance as to what is their persuasion and desire as landowners in Green River. It may be they don't wish to have a road proposal that would bisect their property front and back of the grand home, killing of a woodland habitat along a river, and gunrunning a "temporary" bridge right down from the vista view of the seminal covered bridge. In this day and age of short-time, short- budgets, short-memories, and of course the repeated exaggerations, "temporary" quickly settles in with a fatigue as "permanent." And a modern bridge beside the covered bridge is a loser spectacle of a community that just couldn't rally and preserve a hardy constitution.

We're rambling along here. And critics of the alternative bypass road, without the use of any new bridge, will squawk at the unnecessary rambling of a bypass road over hill and dale, rather than the expedient shot of — rip through a meadow, bang over a clanky modern bridge and a-way-we-go. But take a moment to realize we live in Vermont where the best roads ramble, and for good reason. Often to save a mowing, a glade of trees, a whole forest, or to preserve a river situation, and even an undeveloped village. It's all about bending and turning in Vermont. So bend and turn. I think about this every time I bend around, gladly, the road by Bub Visser's old barn. The barn wins, as it should.

It's going to take an opposition that truly wishes to save its Green River village as the great knowing piece it already is, which needs stewardship and sheltering and proper balancing of every need: municipal, personal, ecological etc., We're dealing with an environment here, not a burden. It's our place to protect and provide for it and ourselves. The covered bridge is the heart around the larger body of the valley life and the people. The bypass road, without any bridges and future headaches, is the remarkable plan to provide for a deeper resource and opportunity. It's an old farmer's back-door dream scheme at getting the cows home around the swale. It's working with the river, not dominating the river.

Let's stop exaggerating.

[ BA ]

photo 2014  © bob arnold