Parkview Hills Community Association was founded in 1971, near the beginning of the modern eco-village era in the United States, as a way to value and preserve the interaction of its community members with the natural environment, and “to give the strongest practical consideration of the preservation of the natural features” that makes this interaction possible. Our community resides, quite literally, at the intersection of human community and the natural environment.
The fields of nature ecology and conservation were young 48 years ago, and in the years since then, our understanding of environmental sciences and healthy natural management has grown exponentially. While a “hands-off”, “preserve as is”, “nature will heal itself” approach to nature was an appropriate response in the latter half of the 20 th century to the use and abuse of the environment since the 19 th century, the 21 st century reaps the challenges birthed by the consequences of this hands-off approach to caring for nature. Fortunately, modern science and ecology have evolved in the last five decades, and we can benefit from what we have learned.
Like the US as a whole, Parkview Hills is increasingly populated with people who interact less frequently with the natural environment in knowledgeable ways. Because natural changes are slow, they are almost imperceptible to an untrained eye. Dense, lush growth does not mean it is healthy growth. Because our definitions of natural environment and natural management are under-informed by modern environmental science and ecological methods, our approach has become neglectful. Our understanding and efforts need to evolve with science and ecology. Natural environments have an incredible ability to heal themselves with intelligent, nature-sensitive management. Without that attention, they also have the ability to deteriorate and degrade.
There have been efforts to address these growing challenges. In a 2001 study, the Kalamazoo Nature Center identified many of the issues above, along with others, and made 173 recommendations. The recommendations of that study were never fully funded or implemented. A follow-up effort by members of the Environmental and Architectural Review Committee (EARC) sorted those issues that were addressed from those that still needed attention in an effort to set priorities. That follow-up languished without serious effort and funding. In the face of increasing challenges to our natural environment, the KNC study is now out of date.
The EARC and the Trails Committees have made forays into addressing the challenges of our natural common areas, but simply keeping up with tree removal requests and architectural issues occupies most of EARC’s time, and trail maintenance and improvements occupies Trails’. Private individuals and residents, including PHCA Board members have recently obtained funding from the state and initiated work to address the fen with some success.
However, if this action is not sustained, it will become another “once and done” remedy that will not endure.
While volunteers have invested themselves in their protection, our common natural areas have not gotten the attention or the funding they require to “preserve the natural features” of our environment. It is time to reverse that trend.