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AMERICA DOWN THE DRAIN
Robert H. Boyle
November 16, 1964
The author, long an ardent conservationist and now a very worried one as well, rises in personal and purposeful wrath to denounce those he calls the spoilers of the country. He itemizes the vastness of their wreckage—past and planned—and he mourns for an America that he fears is lost forever
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November 16, 1964

America Down The Drain

The author, long an ardent conservationist and now a very worried one as well, rises in personal and purposeful wrath to denounce those he calls the spoilers of the country. He itemizes the vastness of their wreckage—past and planned—and he mourns for an America that he fears is lost forever

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Laws must be overhauled on both the federal and state levels. On local levels, consideration should be given to cluster development, whereby houses on, say, a 500-acre tract are not spread out an acre or even two acres to a house but grouped, in a way that will assure privacy for each homeowner, on 200 acres, with the other 300 given over to a golf course, a pond and recreation land in general. When this is done, the landscape is spared and housing becomes a benefit, not a detriment.

William Whyte, who has just written a book appraising cluster development for the American Conservation Association, has been instrumental in getting the State of Connecticut to revamp its conservation laws. The Yankees of Connecticut are a pretty shrewd lot. After more than 300 years of boom and bust, they have realized that industries come and go, but Connecticut remains, and that one of the state's biggest assets is its beauty. It was observed that touring Americans from less fortunate areas will pay money to see village greens, rippling streams and forests. After Connecticut was torn by floods in 1955, the governing fathers saw that there had been too much tampering with the environment. Then in 1961 Whyte came in as a consultant, and much of his program was passed en bloc by the state legislature. Connecticut now has 150,000 acres of state park and forest lands, an impressive total in view of the state's size. Local conservation commissions have greatly increased in number, and they have, among other powers, the right to request condemnation of lands for parks, as scenic attractions or as hunting or fishing grounds.

But where state or local governments are uncooperative—and this is the case most of the time—the only thing for angry citizens to do is to band together to form their own conservation group and pressure bloc. A model group is the Cortlandt Conservation Association in Westchester, which has been functioning for almost a year. Under the leadership of a no-nonsense president, Mrs. Adolph Elwyn, a science teacher, the CCA has grown from 30 members to 400. Considering what had gone on before, wonders have been accomplished. The CCA stopped the dumping of automobiles in a Hudson River marshland, it bought for only $1.25 a fine piece of ravine that came up for auction at a delinquent tax sale (housewives are busy checking over so-called in rem sales to make sure that desirable pieces of land do not fall unnoticed into the hands of developers and their cohorts), and it is busy piecing together land to insure that the Croton River gorge will remain forever wild. Any number of experts—ranging from a tree surgeon to a curator at the New York Botanical Garden to Charles Little—serve as consultants to the CCA, and the local politicians and the weekly newspaper are beginning to pay heed. As Mrs. Elwyn says, "There is no use just sitting by and mourning and allowing the ruin of our country and our waters and our heritage. We have to get out and do something to stop it. If we try, we may even succeed."

*� Ogden Nash 1932, renewed 1960

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