INTRODUCING OUR NEWEST COLUMN:
$.02 with Dave Packie
Dave is a straight shooter. He tells it like it is. He’s not afraid to call people out and give them a good ‘ol verbal beat down. Recently Dave called us out on our shit. We at MTBVT have been promoting riding in our state for a couple years now. But have we weighed the ramifications of our actions? Dave?
20 years ago I left Jersey looking for a more relaxed and rural place to live. I ended up in VT. People make fun of you for being from the “flatland” when they come from “cooler” places. None of them, from what I could tell were Abenaki.
Now I see this cool place bending over backwards to market its goods and cater to the Urbanites. Every cultural and physical nuance that makes this place enjoyable is being marketed as “The Vermont Experience”, and people who are up here spending their precious dollars feel entitled to these resources as part of their holiday. And it’s the natives that are driving the ever-accelerating mechanism. The Marketing Machine is transforming favorite swimming holes, bike trails, BC ski lines, local beers, trout streams, and other gems that used to have special meaning into part of the tourist experience.
The point that is overlooked is that the fact that the reason these things are special to Vermonters, native or migrated, is that they required effort to find, are limited in their availability, and are not roadside attractions that you can photograph from the window of your Suburban. They are places, goods, and experiences that require effort, development of skill and fitness, and intuition in order to glean them from the rolling hills and hamlets of Vermont.
These things should not be solely considered for their potential financial gain. This paradigm leads to development, which leads to exploitation, which leads the masses, who seldom make the choice to head off the beaten path, into places that we used to go to escape them. With them, they bring their entitlement, their road rage, their litter, and yea, their dollars. More and more I am realizing that, at an ever increasing rate, the dollar isn’t worth it.
This is not an exclusionist rant. Maybe it’s a preservationist rant. Coming from the “Dirty Jerz”, I have a perspective that most natives, particularly those not from the Champlain Valley, don’t have and can’t understand. Vermont’s natural beauty may seem endless when viewed from within. But from my perspective, there are precious few places left to truly escape to. Most of our highest peaks are centers for land development, and most of our rivers have been heavily industrialized.
In the age of instant information, we are empowered. Small groups of people can positively affect our culture in ways so profound, and so immediate, it would have seemed impossible just a handful of years ago. Enter the universal truth that every force has a counterforce. As undeniable as this truth is, so is it true that a small group with a financial agenda can have an equally profound negative effect which can permanently change our culture.
If I had a dime for every time I heard someone proclaim, “If I weren’t up here spending my dollars, you wouldn’t have a job.” I’d have a lot of dimes. The awesome jobs that tourism creates are seasonal, low paying, lack benefits, and ensure that we will remain working, and poor. The tourism based economic model devastates our landscapes with land development schemes in our most sacred places. For example, golf courses being built where there are clear signs of bear habitat are polluting the headwaters of trout streams where we watch, in noticeable, real time, the silt fill in the pebble beds, and ski center models ever expanding their physical and carbon footprint. We need to deflate the perceived value of the tourist dollar because it excludes the impact tourism has on our experiences in our daily lives, and on our environment. When you add in these costs, the tourist dollar is worth much less then we might think.