About Me

My photo
I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

A public good

Today I enjoyed a genuinely rejuvenating stop at a public rest area somewhere on Ohio Route 32 between Mt. Orab and Peebles. This particular rest area backs onto woods, and the great state of Ohio has seen fit to incorporate walking trails to encourage enjoyment of said woods.  Having driven two grueling hours in heavy traffic from Louisville, I was more than ready to take a break in some green space and enjoy what this pocket park had to offer.

It offered a great deal. Besides the usual clean restrooms and fountains with cold water, it had delightful diversity. Scattered around the area were beech trees that had been there long enough to grow an interesting collections of lichens and cast cooling shade on the picnic area. The birds and squirrels seemed appreciative and are probably even more so when the beechnuts develop. The edge of the path had the kind of biodiversity that defines "edge habitat" for me: maples as the tall trees, sassafrass and pawpaws (or something with that kind of leaf--I truly can't tell young pawpaws from horse chestnuts or buckeyes) in the understory, brambles that included blackberry, and a mixed collection of vines, including a large-leafed shade-loving beauty whose name I forget. And numerous azure butterflies were fluttering about--looking for violets, perhaps?

Given that both the governor and the state department of transportation would like to privatize a significant number of Ohio rest stops, let me list reasons why privatization strikes me as a bad idea:
  • The privatized rest areas along the Ohio Turnpike offer no green space. Basically, all available space is taken up with parking areas and chain restaurants all trying to sell something.
  • Imagine travelling with a carload of children. Aren't open spaces where they can run around and expend some energy better than a video arcade that demands your quarters?
  • Privatized rest areas are all about selling junk food. The current rural rest stops have quiet picnic areas and places where you can fill bottles with cold water--for free.
  • Rest stops like the one where I stopped today offer great places to give kids mini-lessons in natural history. In a five-minute walk, they could learn to identify several trees, see how raspberries and blackberries grow (and maybe even pick a few, at the right time of year), and be taught the difference between Virginia creeper and poison ivy.
The impetus for privatization comes, of course, from a shortage of funds in ODOT. The "free" water and restrooms  have to be paid for by someone: in this case, the driving public. But public amenities are a public good. I for one am happy to have my tax dollars go for beautiful, safe spaces where people can take a quiet break without worrying whether or not they remembered to bring their credit cards.

No comments: