For as long as I can remember I lived in the same house on Marsala Way, in Mission Viejo, California. My neighborhood was one of many planed communities that have been built in Orange County since the 1980s. When I was younger, our street looked out over what appeared to be endless rolling hills of undeveloped land that was once used by cattle farmers. It was, for me, the edge of civilization. From my window, I looked directly out into the hills and see one large, lone oak tree. I always wondered what it would like to look back at my home from its base.
That tree is not there today. In 2000 the land way developed into a large planned community called Ladera Ranch with 4000 acres of homes, offices, and strip malls. What once was an enormous open space, relatively free from damaging human interference, became just another over-developed area. And this is not just a problem in Orange County. It is happening all across the nation.
I believe that we need to save our open spaces before it’s to late.
It is sickening to think about how lands that I once admired for their visual beauty will never look the same again. And open spaces have so much more to offer that just beautiful scenery. When natural lands are preserved they help sustain the ecosystems that are already suffering from human interference. Open spaces also become a piece of community pride and value. I see this in the few remaining preserved areas around my home.
For me, open spaces offer a peaceful alternative for the ever-moving, ever-changing world that consumes us all. I will never forget the feel of wet grass under my feet in the morning and the smell of walking down a trail under moonlight and stars. I hope that someday experiences like these will still be possible in my hometown.
So much of what is unique about our country is lost when these massive communities are built. The land that is now Ladera Ranch had been undeveloped for thousands of year before destroy bulldozers leveled the land.
My worst fear is that twenty years from now the area I grew up in will look nothing like the memories of my childhood. It will have changed from what appeared to be endless rolling hills, into an endless sprawl of identical homes, shopping centers, and parking lots. I hope that this future never comes to be. I belive that through discussion and activism the issues of preservation will be heard and accepted by our country, but it takes an open ear for it to begin. I hope more Americans listen soon.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.