Editor's Note: Pat Brentano is an artist and environmentalist. She lives in Westfield, NJ.
Dear Mayor Brindle, members of the town council and citizens of Westfield,
Please reconsider your plans to put a mountain bike path in Brightwood Park. The park may be underused by people, but it is not underused by nature. If you read “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben you will learn that trees like us, live in communities. They are very social beings communicating through scent and their roots. They provide shelter, shade, food, oxygen and control water runoff creating a sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.
We have already destroyed much of the natural world in the suburbs, replacing it with grass and ornamental trees and shrubs, creating sterile environments. A mountain bike path could destroy habitat, drive out birds and interrupt the quiet solitude of a rich ecosystem in the middle of suburbia. Can’t we please leave one piece of nature to itself?
In the book “Outside Lies Magic,” by Harvard Professor, John Stillgoe, we read about seeing in new ways and enriching our lives unexpectedly. It is about the art of exploring. Exploration encourages creativity, serendipity and invention. Walking the trails of Brightwood Park provides the benefits of escaping from the confines of our programmed lives. Today we need this solitude more than ever.
I propose an alternative way for the people of Westfield to use the park. It is the perfect place to teach our children to respect and reconnect with nature. Schools could use the park to teach art, science, biology, horticulture, botany, primitive skills and conservation.
Maybe the town could partner with an organization to mentor us in the best way to use this hidden gem. After all we are here on earth for such a short period of time. It would be nice to give back instead of always taking. We should preserve what remains of the natural environment for the next generation.