Progress at the price of community
June 5, 2013
Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to the Alpine County Board of Supervisors, who are scheduled to discuss Markleeville Village project on Tuesday.
It has been a few years since I retired as the director of the Alpine County Museum after 12 wonderful years in Markleeville. During that time as director, I attended all meetings regarding the Mahlee/Markleeville Village Project to voice my concerns regarding the project’s impact on our Museum. My concerns are as real today as they were then, that the project will have an abject impact on the museum buildings, grounds, collections, and the historical experience that the museum provides each and every visitor.
Today as visitors climb the hill to the museum, they are immediately filled with a sense of history that is very special to the community of Markleeville. The Schoolhouse, Jail, and Stamp Mill, all relics of Markleeville’s past, are set in a pristine scene framed by a meadow and a hillside filled with pinion and jeffrey pines that is today as it was when Jacob Marklee first ventured into this rugged Sierra landscape. It would be a shame that one day the landscape Walt Monroe loved dearly and that filled his heart and soul would become a landscape filled with roads, condos, a lodge and dormitories.
I understand that communities wish to enrich the area with new developments to ease Alpine County into the 21st Century. But don’t be in too much of a hurry to bring the future to replace the area’s history and environment. Today I sit here in my home in Poway, Calif., in the northern part of San Diego County, looking out at a landscape filled with homes, apartments, condos and businesses. Nowhere can I see the beauty and history that once filled this area not so many years ago. Each new development has brought the area new wealth, but too soon the life we all came here to enjoy has been disfigured by those roads, apartments, condos, businesses, and of course crowds of individuals. The sad thing about my home here in Poway is that all this development in the name of progress has ironically left us environmentally scarred forever. Also the wealth to the community that was promised by all this development never materialized, witnessed by the soaring costs of water, electricity, gas and all the things one relates to the good life.
And so dear board, you have a monumental task before you. It is in your hands to either keep Markleeville and its environs the historically beautiful area you see as you look out of your windows. Or in the not-too-distant future, you may wonder what happened to that wonderful place called Markleeville that spawned the likes of J. Marklee and W. Monroe. I certainly hope that developments like the Mahlee/Markleeville Village Project bring the prosperity you hope for, but remember the cost that San Diego has paid to erase its cultural and environmental heritage in the name of progress.
I wish you well in the decision you are about to make. You are about to embark on choices about the future that many others have made — some for the good, and others, well, they became Poway, Calif.
Richard C. Edwards is former director of the Alpine County Museum.