“I don’t really know my neighbors. We never talk.” At one time, those could have been my words. Today, I know hundreds of my neighbors. That’s not a misprint. Hundreds. Kids, senior citizens, people who work in town and people who commute, office workers, tradespeople, business owners, professionals.
Let me explain. I live in the small, pre-Revolutionary town of Langhorne, Pennsylvania (population less than 2,000). For the past 20 years, nearly half the people here—friends and neighbors—have been involved in the battle to make our town “green” through saving its remaining areas of open space.
On this journey, we’ve come to know each other. We’ve met over each others’ kitchen tables. We’ve planned and worked and hoped. We’ve worried and argued. Made mistakes, tried again and again, and succeeded. Through it all, I’ve done a lot of praying.
To raise money, we baked cookies. That was the easy part. We learned to do things we thought were beyond our capabilities. We hosted country fairs, flea markets, haunted farms, artfests, craft shows, jazzfests, and Christmas tree sales, welcoming many thousands of visitors who have come to enjoy the open space we’ve saved.
We’ve learned about zoning and laws and judicial systems. We’ve learned about local politics, and have gotten involved. We’ve learned how to petition county and state officials for funding, and how to work with them.
Every one of us is a volunteer.
So, if none of us made a salary, what do we have to show for two decades of all this work? The chance to live in a truly great town. It’s true, we’re becoming more surrounded by development—houses, apartments, shopping centers, parking lots….all those things that could have devoured us, too. But inside our small community, we have an incredible amount of lovely green space we’ve saved for ourselves and our children, as well as for future generations.
On a recent warm spring night, I heard the kids calling to each other as they ran and played outdoors. As I walk around town, I chat with the gardeners working the 100 community gardens we have now where houses were going to cover a farm.
I leave the streets, and walk the dirt path in the nature preserve where I’m likely to spot a deer or fox. The sound of traffic fades. I hear the birds call…80 species wouldn’t have a home if we hadn’t saved this from becoming a development of housing quads.
Walking further, I stop a few silent minutes at the Revolutionary Burial Site and find my eyes filling up, as I think of the soldiers who gave everything for my freedom. This spot would be duplexes if we hadn’t fought all the way to the State Supreme Court.
I’ve learned that greening a community takes time and patience and forgiveness. It means the “greening” of our relationships with our neighbors, as well as the natural environment.
The “Greening of Langhorne” has taken 20 plus years, and we’re still at it. It’s become a way of life for me. I treasure every inch of open space, and am grateful for every neighbor I have come to know.
Every day is Earth Day in Historic Langhorne, Pennsylvania.
You can view photos and learn more at langhorneopenspace.org.
Feel free to email me your environmental tips and questions!