Suburban Nightmare

June 1, 2008
By Edward Wang, Mason, OH

Several years ago, a forest near my home was leveled with bulldozers and construction workers, trucks, and dumpsters took over. The forest, a haven where many neighborhood children and I could play and relax, became a barren dirt field with roughed-in roads, lots, and other preparations for construction. A tall fence around the new development went up next, forever sealing off the location of many memories.

I had witnessed the construction of a new housing development, the human race's indication of its presence. However, the new development was simply a first step towards a more problematic lifestyle. My town was previously semi-rural, but this connotation would not survive. A new neighborhood was in construction across from ours, another barren field of dirt blemishing the landscape. A golf course, regularly visited by my father, was the next victim. A previously quiet street near my school, which only served local traffic when I first arrived, was widened into a 4-lane artery serving residents all over the city. Before my eyes, all the qualities of a rural area vanished as our town succumbed to the rapid suburbanization of the Capital District of New York.

This transformation was very important to me because I was able to live in the town prior to its suburbanization. The forest was part of my daily schedule, and i would spend entire afternoons after school there. I rode my bike through the forest with my friends on informal trails, riding over and through obstacles and ramps that we built. Other children would come and watch, sometimes playing in a creek that would form after rainstorms. Children could almost always be seen digging for fun, making ramps and creating holes to play in. These luxuries and experiences are rarely seen in a modern suburb, heavily regulated by homeowners' societies that require green lawns and conformity, and were lost to us when the “yellow monster”, as the bulldozers were called, crushed the forest in front of several distraught children who had gathered to view the spectacle.

Although the fierce spread of suburbs may not be able to be stopped, the qualities of nature could be preserved. Spacious and easily accessible parks with trees, playgrounds, and paths offer a viable suburban alternative to forests. Parks with these qualities are sorely lacking in suburbs; after I moved to Ohio, I realized that the neighborhood park was a tiny plot of sand with a single playground fixture, a full mile from my house. Positive changes are already taking effect in some portions of my town, with the expansion of a city park, but it is not happening quickly enough; my neighborhood will still have to live with a small plot of sand for years to come. The preservation of nature are also important. Sometimes, there is simply no substitute for a child to walk through a forest and explore the sights and sounds.

My current home is located at the very fringe of Cincinnati's urban area, an epitomizer of suburbanization that I, as a child, had despised. After moving here, however, I realized that I was not alone; A friend of mine had lived in the town since a small child and had seen buildings built, roads expanded, and neighborhoods constructed around him. I was one of the vast majority of residents who had moved within the past few years, completely out of touch with the natural, rural past of the town. The suburbanization of the United States is unstoppable, but can and must be countered through the active development of green spaces and the preservation of nature.

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