Is “Public Recreation” just a ploy?

The Anderson Corporation for Economic development has frequently said that its proposal for a dam and reservoir is partially intended for “recreation’.  They mention “recreation” as if to imply that they are concerned about the public health and welfare. However, do they actually seek to promote the recreation industry?

Wendell Berry provides pertinent comment about the “community-spirit” of some people in influential positions–

Community is a concept, like humanity or peace, that virtually no one has taken the trouble to quarrel with; even its worst enemies praise it.  There is almost no product or project that is not being advocated in the name of community improvement.  We are told that we, as a community, are better off for the power industry,… the sports industry,…the entertainment industry,… the law industry,… the government industry, and the religion industry.  You could look into any one of these industries and find many people, some of them in influential positions, who are certifiably “community-spirited.”   In fact, however, neither our economy, nor our government, nor our education system runs on the assumption that community has a value– a value, that is, that counts in any practical or powerful way.  The values that are assigned to community are emotional and spiritual–“cultural”– which makes it the subject of pieties that are merely vocal”.    

Wendell Berry,  Home Economics  1987,  Essay:  Does Community have a Value?  1986

The Anderson Corporation for Economic Development has indicated that the idea for a dam initially came from Anderson businessman Quinn Ricker in 2010.  The Ricker companies have business interests in real estate, gasoline retailing, and convenience stores. All of these would stand to benefit greatly if a reservoir, justified at least in part for recreation, would attract boaters, including especially those in gas-guzzling power boats.

We Americans appreciate our leisure.  Recreational options, well distributed and accessible, are a desirable thing.  Yet there is skepticism, a healthy skepticism, that neither the Ricker companies nor the Anderson Corporation for Economic Development are actually much concerned about providing more leisure-time, healthful  options for the population.

Let’s not forget, in our haste to create the “next big thing”, that the White River, with all its natural beauty and biodiversity, is already there to be enjoyed, as many people now do.  A reservoir would only destroy that same natural fabric which attracts people now.

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