Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Photo by Mary Nida Smith

One thing I love about Our Little House being so far out in the country is the quiet.

I can sit in the morning, as I have all this week, on the party deck or on the covered front porch with the Fearsome Four, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee with nothing but the occasional buzz of the hummingbirds coming for a drink off of the feeder.

However, this summer, there’s been an unnatural hum ringing through the mountains that the dogs have even noticed.

At the top of our mountain, a developer is clear cutting 100 acres of land so he can sell off the land in lots for homes with a “long lake view” (and these are very long lake views since the lake is 5 miles or more from the top of the mountain).

Needless to say, this has been very distressing to us, as well as most of our neighbors, who don’t want to see our mountain turned into “xxx Landing,” or “xxx Estates” as have some of the tops of other mountains in our area.

Our mountain area is wooded and clear-cutting the trees causes numerous environmental issues, one of them being the run-off that occurs when the trees are no longer there to protect the soil from sliding down the mountain.

In this case, the run-off will eventually hit the creek behind our house that empties into the lake next to our home.

The result will be a muddying of the crystal clear cove below our house.

There’s nothing we can do about it, of course, short from buying out every potential developer in the county.

Before the recession hit, our county was the fastest growing in Arkansas, attracting mainly retirees who wanted to live a lake lifestyle after working for most of their lives.

Several successful developments were constructed around us, but several were left sitting idle.

Dale and I ignored the “No Trespassing” signs on our way into town on Saturday evening, driving the long drive back to where they’re clear cutting. If the lots are sold, the people who build there will have a spectacular view, but the landscape bears the scars of the beautiful trees that were downed in the past few weeks and the environmental impact will last for generations.

On Sunday, on our way to the recycling center at the fire station, we drove up a long, steep road. The tearing and peeling sign announced we were entering, “Hilltop Estates,” one of the failed developments that was clear cut several years ago for buyers who never came.

Even the roads through the “development” are grown up with weeds and tall grasses now, but the trees, of course, are still gone.

While one planned development sits vacant, save for one home, another developer with dollar signs in his eyes clear cuts another mountaintop less than 3 miles away.

What a waste.

What waste do you see happening around your home?

I hope all of you have a wonderful and safe Fourth of July weekend. Please send me some tips on small house living, as I will start posting those tips on Mondays!

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30 Responses

  1. Vida says:

    Hi Kerri,

    We bought our dream plot in Greece four years ago after much searching. It was mainly beautiful because it bordered an area of natural Mediterranean scrub with a tiny foot path and a beautiful private bay with emerald waters below. Then a project to lay water pipes was pushed through and suddenly our path became a hideous swath of bulldozed dirt, with uprooted trees strewn tragically on the side. The water company (also the government) then decided that it needed access to the mains water valves along this new dirt horror and cut another road right next to our property through protected forested areas. Our “private” bay became suddenly accessible to all and rumors of a coastal road floated by, carried by an ill wind…

    We sold the plot at the beginning of this year as our dream plot had turned into a nightmare. Luckily someone else found it dreamy in its present state!

    The pipes carry much needed water to distant villages, so this has not been a wasted project, but the wanton destruction of an already fragile environment and a flagrant disregard for property rights is what makes me stew about the entire incident.

  2. Meredith says:

    When we bought our place it was near a large area of undeveloped land. There were few cars and it was very nice. Then, one day, we went on vacation. We came back to a lone traffic light at one of the soon-to-be larger intersections. We knew the days of the open farm fields would slowly be over. We are fortunate to live in a very pretty community, but I still long for those wide open farms.

  3. MarthaAndMe says:

    This is heartbreaking. There are lots of developments going up in my town – some on land my grandfather and his brothers used to own.

    • That would be worse, watching land that was once in your family, go to development. 🙁 When we lived in the city, it was hard enough watching each owner of my parent’s home remodel and change it. These latest folks seem to have respect for the history of the home and I’m glad to see that.

  4. Ugh! I’m sorry to hear about the development.

    The worst example near here actually happened down in town, where a developer convinced the city to let him oust all the mobile homes in one area, populated by trees 100+ years old. He “promised” to save the trees as part of his efforts, but voila … suddenly the trees were gone.

    Then, the economy tanked, and the whole area is barren, weedy, and closed off with temporary fencing. It’s been that way for YEARS now.

    So, not only did a bunch of people lose what little affordable housing there is in the town proper, but the whole community lost those trees, AND the area cleared looks like crap.

    It makes me mad every time I drive by.

  5. caireen says:

    we just had a business at the back of us extend their already big enough carpark… not a massive deal I suppose, but it is sad to see the earth all torn up for more tarmac, the blackbirds that live in the hedge were checking out the earthworks for worms – not realising their home was being tarmac’ed. Until the wilderness, kept as it is, is actually seen as being WORTH something not just to our souls, but peoples pockets, maybe this will just go on? I hope not. enjoyed finding your website from tinyhouse blog xx

  6. Mo says:

    I think Brian hit it right on. We only have ourselves to blame as we are the ones that keep electing the folks in office and we are the ones that cause the demand that make such ventures (including oil drilling) profitable.

    Not sure about your state but here if ANY logging, road building or site clearing causes ANY erosion, siltification or even remove the shade that raises the temperature of a creek there are expensive consequences that include shutting down the project. If you notice any silt in the streams document report it to ever Wildlife and Natural resource Dept you can think of. We have salmon in our streams so riparian areas require buffers and are protected by law.

    I manage a little over 25 acres of Forest land with Habitat being the primary mission. There are several layers of bureaucracy, everything from the tax man to fisheries…

  7. Alexandra says:

    This always makes me sad. How short-sighted! Here, on Cape Cod, they even take down houses, newly built houses, because people like the view on a lot but want all new. I hate clear-cutting of woods!

    • I hate it too, Alexandra. When we built Our Little House, we left as many tress as we could. Who cares if we can’t see the lake 500 yards from the house? If we want to see the lake, we’ll take out the boat.

  8. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I’ve seen this again and again in the Smoky Mountains where my folks live. The trees come down, the back hoes come out and the land looks like it is bleeding. Hard to look at and even more tragic when the destruction is done and then the development falls through.

  9. Debby S says:

    It was sad to read about the downing of trees, Kerri- in a way, this is a microcosm of the spill in the Gulf- Corporate greed always seems to prevail over what is truly best- (No scruples, no care, no shame)- When you eloquently pointed out the contrast of one vacant mountain top development raped of trees and sitting empty (sans one home) now overgrown with weeds while you hear the constant ‘buzzing’ of more trees being destroyed, it’s hard not to feel outrage-
    I hope, somehow, you’ll be able to work on your local government, environmentalist agencies and anyone else you can think of to stop the deforestation…(but don’t count on it- The developers seem to have incredibly deep pockets from investors who see ‘green’ only as dollars…

    As for what is going on where we live? It’s disgusting. Antioch is being widened- I can’t even imagine the number of trees that have been destroyed, or the pretty ‘vegetation’ that lined both sides of the street and the wide sidewalks (wide enough for passing other dog walkers) Now it will be avoided- with three lanes of traffic in each direction, and very little (if any) room for a sidewalk, it will be a place to avoid walking in order to avoid inhaling car fumes…
    (It was a decision reached by OP city hall- based on traffic – no one asked any of the homeowners in this quadrant- and the truth is, traffic only backs up ONCE a day- during the 5:00 rush hour…)

    Wow, I did NOT mean to ramble on so much! My apologies! (I think this just hit me at a time where life seems surrounded by ‘all things beautiful’ being destroyed…)

    On to happier thoughts- Wishing you a safe and happy July 4th!

  10. Missy says:

    Being in Arkansas last weekend, I always enjoy visiting the “natural state.” I feel peace when I see all the beautiful nature that God has provided us.

  11. Kerri, clearing cutting,control burns and developers do not sit beauty in my book.I think all three needs the public to keep a more watchful eye on them. I complained to the Army Corp of Engineers that they were destroying what they were hired to protect. The campgrounds along the lake above our local marina where they were cutting down too many trees and burning leaves before tourist arrived. They destroyed all the wildflowers and flowering bushes. They caused the soil to run into the lake. There has been no burning the past three years. The Fall leaves are holding the soil while they build more rich soil and I am enjoying a few wildflowers.

    • That’s wonderful, Mary, that you took a stand. We should learn a lesson from you. I do not understand why the Corps here does not have more say in what happens to the mountains surrounding the lake. At this point, it is local government we have to fight.

  12. Brian says:

    The real blame lies not with the developer, who generally has no interest in the community, but the local and state governance, meaning the citizins. If those living there do not attempt to stand up to the rubber stamping of these developments we cannot complain. One reason real estate in California, especially the Bay Area, is so expensive is limited developement. Believe me, far more house could be built there if not for the green spaces. Thank God for those green spaces!

    • You’re right, of course, Brian. We all must stay involved in our government and their doings, be it local, state or federal. We can’t have a people’s government if the people don’t participate. The problem here is that we don’t have any regulations in unincorporated areas. Obviously, we need some.

  13. V Schoenwald says:

    That is the way it is here where I live. The south end of the city is building because it is right on the I-80 corridor. My side of town, the north side or as it is known by the locals “the poor side of town”, is run-down, and literally falling apart. It at one time, was thriving and busy.
    We have historic building here, and they sit idle, while they build big boxes, and make it look like a small Omaha, which it will never be.

  14. Susan says:

    It really is a shame the way these developers destroy the enviroment. We have several failed developements here in the city. Some not to far from our house. The other thing that bothers me, are businesses that close or move to a bigger store and then these buildings sit idle for years, if not decades. We have had Walmart, Albertson (they got run out of town by HEB) Academy, malls that sit empty now. Such a waste.

    • You’re right, Susan. I never saw the sense in building a new mall when the one down the street sits vacant. Just update it, for heaven’s sake! When are Americans going to stop this wasteful building and plowing through our natural resources? I read with a little amusement the other day our nostalgia column in the local paper. The owners of a new strip mall back in 1985 had been successful in getting a curfew ordinance passed to keep kids from gathering in their parking lot after hours. Today, as the whole mall sits vacant, I bet they wish someone would gather there. Yet, as that mall sits totally empty and unused, they continue to develop on the other end of town, keeping the sprawl going.