This past Labor Day, I brought my family, including Arlo the 5-month old puppy, up to PEC’s Piedmont Memorial Overlook for a hike and a picnic. The view was great, with a cool breeze blowing, butterflies of many types in the wildflower meadow and even a full-sized copperhead sunning itself on the trail to get our hearts racing!
But what really made my day was the hundreds of people hiking up the Appalachian Trail and from Sky Meadows who come to see the view. All of them take time to read the information on the kiosk that we installed this year, telling the story of the conservation of the site, plans for restoration, and conserved landscape all around them. They wander through the Memorial, touching the name plates. And they sit and soak in the view. Probably more than any other place, the Piedmont Memorial Overlook provides public access to the cumulative results of our work, and tens of thousands of people are enjoying that experience each year.
Faced with challenges, we seize opportunities and pursue them relentlessly. That’s something I’ve always been proud of about The Piedmont Environmental Council.
Right now, the dual challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic and our growing consciousness of the social inequalities and systemic racism that exists in our society remind me how much more there is yet to be done to ensure that clean water, healthy food, public access to nature, and the enjoyment of this beautiful place are available to all.
As I wrote in my June letter, PEC is focusing on four areas to address the needs of this moment.In the area of public process and government transparency, our field staff attend and provide comment at digital public hearings, host and attend webinars, provide press commentary, and send action alerts to help to make area residents aware of local and state government decisions related to land use that are important to the present and future of our region.
In the second area—making sure the local food supply chain can serve you as a consumer and meet the needs of the food-insecure in our community—we’ve reinvested in our BuyFresh Buy Local program and expanded PEC’s Community Farm at Roundabout Meadows, which has produced more than 22,000 pounds of food for needy families this year. Through our innovative milk initiative, we’ve also helped local dairies supply more than 1,000 gallons of milk per week to 18 food pantries throughout our region.
A third challenge that has grown more apparent during the pandemic is the need for everyone in our community to have ready access to the outdoors. I know you understand the importance of being able to enjoy nature. It’s important to me, every day, to take a walk in the woods with my dog, get a sense of the weather that day, see wildlife, etc. It just makes everything else go better. Our work to expand access to that same experience is both a core function of PEC and an area of increasing focus.
The final area we’ve been focused on is making sure that land conservation and land management programs continue to be available through the pandemic, and that they are accessible and beneficial to all. Surprisingly, over the last six months, interest in conservation options at home has never been greater. We’re excited to be able to continue to protect the forests, farmlands, streams, rivers, and natural places that sustain us.
Our work impacts the communities of the Piedmont and the larger region. As PEC members, you are part of a long-term effort to make better places and to make progress towards a vision of land with vibrant farms using sustainable practices to improve soil health and water quality, forests that provide lumber, habitat and riparian buffers, and open spaces that not only provide respite and repose but also protect our complicated history and provide a cultural context.