Patrick Taylor – Highlands Mayor
Ran Shaftner, the archivist emeritus for the Highlands Historical Society, wrote an interesting article in the February March Plateau Magazine. It is entitled, “Allowing the Soul to Bloom.” My friend Alice Nelson shared the piece with me. I found it very informative as we develop a new community comprehensive plan and grapple with pressures of growth and expansion.
Dr. Shaftner writes:
“Growth looms more destructive in a village than in a metropolis, where it is far less noticed. To argue that a town, which doesn’t grow, will die is to disregard deaths from overgrowth. The high cost of too much growth in a small town is not so much financial as human. The stakes are higher in a town like Highlands than for larger cities, whose residents visit for love of what makes it different rather than what duplicates life back home. The hope for Highlands’ future lies in preserving its natural and human qualities, its innate beauty and humanity.”
I find myself agreeing with Ran about the future of Highlands and the plateau. A motto I have embraced over the years has been “to balance preservation and progress.” Progress does not imply ever expanding growth. Preservation has many dimensions, not just preservation of this beautiful environment. Shaftner points out we need to preserve our human capital also. The community needs an ongoing conversation as to how this dynamic between change and constancy develops.
I witnessed the value of our humanity in this community over and over this winter. This past Sunday another event was put on by the Highlands Cashiers Vaccination Clinic at the Highlands Recreation Center. I was again gratified to see such a tremendous volunteer effort in vaccinating almost 1,000 people. As a volunteer I found myself empathizing with everyone getting vaccinated. Regardless of our status in life, I again realized we are all connected to one another in mutual support and concern. We are at our best as a community when we help our neighbors in time of need and distress like what we have endured this past year. Highlands is a caring community of volunteers that responds to those needs. We can’t afford to lose this invaluable human asset. We can’t afford to lose this core of residents who love to live, work and serve this community. What will we really accomplish if we sacrifice this human, caring resource for only expanded monetary gain? While preserving the natural beauty of the plateau is essential, preserving our humanity actually goes hand in hand in a broader preservation vision.
Our town retreat last week identified a long list of needs that require funding. The most critical needs will be included in the forthcoming budget. Other important needs will remain as top priorities for subsequent budgets. The board will have to make difficult decisions between now and July.
The March Highlands Town Board Meeting will be in person tonight [Thursday] at the Highlands Conference Center at 7 p.m. There will also be a ZOOM option, but public comment will be done in person. A person wishing to make a comment can come to the start of the meeting, make a comment and then leave. Masks and social distancing will be observed at the meeting.