Thursday, February 16, 2006

Elgin -- the environmentally friendly city?

David Kaptain put one vision forward today; he told the Courier that, "we can become the environmentally friendly city." But such a vision, while noble, is I think too constrained. It's not enough to be an environmentally friendly city; it goes without saying that a nice place to live and work will be a place with a nice environment. Fountain in a river or not, almost every city in America can make a claim to being an environmentally friendly city. And in this region, other cities can make far more credible claims. Besides, it's questionable whether such positioning would even help Elgin prosper--economically and otherwise.

A clean environment and sound environmental policy is important, but it's only one component. And it is, I think much more a regional issue than a purely local issue. As I mentioned in a previous entry, the independence of the Kane County Forest Preserve District would likely go some way towards expanding acreage under protection, and much of that would be outside of the city but hopefully on its borders. The Fox River is, of course, a regional issue, and all the communities need to work together to get the state to remove the mill dams between--at least--Elgin and Aurora. There would be no need for fountains in the river if the dams that impound and de-oxygenate water were removed. Certainly there's a cost to this beyond the financial cost; many people, me included, think the dams are picturesque. The real question though is whether that beauty is better than the beauty of clean, clear water, filled with healthy fish, wildlife and plants. We're used to thinking of the Fox as a dark, smelly, felt-covered river, but it's only this way because of what we've done to it with these dams. Councilman Kaptain knows about the Fox more than I ever could learn, but what I do know--from my reading of history--is that when Hezekiah Gifford first stepped into the river, the water was crystal clear and his feet touched gravel not mud.

There's another benefit from removing the dams: you can canoe or kayak all the way between Elgin and Aurora. I would love to do that. Wouldn't you?


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