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Letter to the Editor: Riverfront Recapture or Riverfront Disaster?

November 7, 2016 Government, Opinion, Referendum No Comments

To the Editor:

Remember all the excitement, fireworks, and jubilation in 1999, as Hartford’s Riverfront Recapture celebrated opening night on the city’s new bridge not over – but to – the Connecticut River?  Can you remember that in 1999, we too were excitedly looking at our own Riverfront Recapture initiative towards removing our crumbling garage off the Farmington River at a fraction of today’s cost? Today Hartford’s Riverfront Recapture generates millions in business and tax revenue as their Riverfront Recapture also benefits the city in so many additional ways that can’t be measured simply by money. 

In contrast, 17 years later, we are regrettably being asked by our town leaders to spend millions to permanently scar our beautiful, nationally-recognized Wild and Scenic Farmington River – and not add one penny in economic development in return.    How is it that over the past three decades almost every major riverfront town across our nation recaptured its riverfront and basks in the sparkling afterglow of improved quality of life for communities and families, and associated economic vitality – and today we are voting on just the opposite?

Perhaps thinking of this solely as a budgetary or even environmental issue is why it has failed for almost three decades.  Perhaps this really is more about a matter of legacy.

Yes, what legacy will we leave our children?  Will it be one we are proud of, or one we regret?   Since our children, and theirs, will live with our decision, how will we explain it to them in terms they would understand?

We could explain it in children’s-fable-style. Perhaps an apt one would be about Cinderella’s step-sisters, who for economic reasons (hoping to land the wealthy prince and quickly put financial worry behind them) cut off their big toes in an expedient effort to fit into a small elegant slipper.

Imagine their lasting regret for their failed short-sighted attempts at self-mutilation to deceive themselves and others about the obvious reality:  big toe or no big toe, it just doesn’t fit!

That is not much different from our selectmen’s expedient attempt to shoehorn a huge 25-foot-tall, 14,000 sq. ft. corrugated aluminum industrial building into a beautiful, narrow riverside lot where it obviously doesn’t fit, with no room to expand, blocks river view and access, and still falls way short of the newly announced HUD flood plain regulations – at a cost of at least $3.8 million (probably much more due to site constraints).

Could this children’s fable save us from the pitfalls of being hastily expedient in the short-term, or from falling prey to Issue Fatigue, or being blinded by Sunken Cost phenomena associated with this ballot proposal?

How will we feel explaining to our children, or our grandchildren, that – yes, we did have a choice – and a real opportunity within our grasp to save OUR riverfront for generations to come – but regretfully like Cinderella’s stepsisters, we ignored the obvious, deceived ourselves, and expediently and crudely cut off ourselves from our own river?

Or instead, might we wake up Wednesday morning without regret and rejoice in the prospect of our own Canton’s Riverfront Recapture and not Riverfront Disaster?

Dana Schreiber 



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