Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tending to the Chalice of Life

By John Clancey

Examples of our planets maternal splendors can be found everywhere. Whatever world we have made for ourselves is nothing compared to the wealth of life that is our environment. It is this sprit that communities must embrace if they hope to maintain the life-sustaining resources that perpetuate their environment. Among the most important of these fragile catalysts of life is the fundamental cornerstone of society that is the regional natural watershed.

Look no further than Mahwah, New Jersey. There, lying amongst the foothills of the Ramapo Mountain, exists a watershed that has supported communities along its river banks for more than three hundred years. The Ramapo River Watershed encases over 925 square miles, during which it traverses as well as defines the landscapes of one of our most spectacular regions. Existing in both northern New Jersey and southeastern New York, this extraordinary water system drains into over thirty five lakes and ponds. These communal life springs play host to kayakers, fishermen, and wildlife alike as well as beautifying the entire region.

The importance of natural watersheds cannot be understated. Water is a limited resource. To squander water is to squander life. However, despite the attention important issues like the watershed deserve, they are largely overlooked and remain in constant danger. Waste deposits from large populations, the growing demand for urbanization, these things provide a constant threat to the healthy existence of struggling watersheds. Nowhere is this truer than along the Ramapo River. Increased storm runoff and the expansion of suburbia have begun to uproot areas traditionally essential to the natural life cycle of the Ramapo River. Even major road ways such as the New York Thruway and Route 287 discharge massive amounts of pollution draining directly into the river. Motor oil, tire fragments, broken glass, assorted litter, all of it swept up by passing rain storms and added to the besieged currents.

Thankfully there are many steps that we as citizens can take to protect local water sources. Adopting sections of the river, doing cleanups, even recycling cardboard and other potential litter can improve the condition of local waterways. Preventing mud at construction sites is particularly important as soil runoff can be damaging to the sandy surfaces of brooks. Planting grass to curtail soil erosion and even trees to provide shade can do wonders for small eco-populations.

Societies have always needed watersheds, no matter what period. The Egyptians, Sumerians, the Greek city states, all relied on major waterways to sustain their way of life. Without a self-sustainable water shed, we not only cheapen our experience, but risk it for the generations to come. Unless steps are taken to defend the existence of the Ramapo water shed, the haunting charm surrounding these hills could be lost forever.

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