The forest and the trees

A few weeks ago, I saw this article in The Guardian, and I’ve been reading about the potential ban on some of the British blogs I follow. It reminded me of something, and I dug around on the back of my office shelves to find this:

When I left local politics over a decade ago, the local reporter asked me what my greatest achievement had been. “World peace” didn’t seem to fit, and I had to tell her there wasn’t one accomplishment I could honestly point to and say, “There. That’s mine, and the town’s much better for it” (I didn’t tell her what I’d really come to believe after 25 years or so, which was that while I’d been more than willing to perform what I’d thought of as my public duty, the town would have looked essentially the same if a random resident had been pulled in off her tractor to sit in the chairs I’d occupied.)

But reading about the utterly wrongheaded proposed Scottish camping ban reminded me that there was this one thing. I attended a Selectmen’s meeting one evening to learn that our town’s insurance carrier and attorneys had told us that to avoid lawsuits we had to close down the small crag in our park to technical climbing. I made a loud noise, and after some discussion my two colleagues agreed to announce a temporary ban for the express purpose of seeing if we could work things out.

I took a good look at state law, made sure our parks met the tests set by the legislature to avoid liability (basically, post appropriate signs asserting climbers’ personal responsibility, and make no Town effort to protect or improve safety—no fences at the top of the rocks, for example). I jawboned a little with the contiguous land owners, individual climbers, and climbing groups, we put up little informational kiosks (with emphasis on the positives and just a few “no’s,” and we worked with our insurers and lawyers to make sure all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed.

It wasn’t all that hard, actually: Gather facts, understand the problem, talk to those with some stake in the outcome, keep everybody in the loop, broker an agreement, and take the smallest necessary action that would serve the general good. I was given this plaque by an organization that was, I think, as surprised that I’d cared to make the effort as they were delighted we’d succeeded.

So there. That’s mine.

I’m still working on world peace.

(And rooting for those working to see that wild camping remains unrestricted at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, where I’m standing, soaking wet and very happy, in this photo.)



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