4/12/2014 Quality Of Life

Main Line Times Column, Place We Love – Quality of Life

IMG_20141215_151733As winter begins to lose its grip, the natural world begins to think about spring.  The skunk cabbage is up, spring peepers are calling their hearts out, and the red maples are beginning to glow as tiny flowers open their blossoms.  Spring is all about new life, change and fresh perspectives.  As we leave winter behind and embrace spring, join me in considering how this season might inspire us to think about the Places We Love in a new way.

The choices that we make for our gardens in spring are ones that ultimately enhance our quality of life.  Essentially, we select flowers for our gardens that make our lives better and improve our well being.  At first glance, you might select plants based on aesthetics alone and any one of them might increase your happiness.  How do you determine what is the right choice?  You might consider how one plant might offer some sort of community benefit.  You might select a plant that is not only lovely but also attracts native butterflies, assists with stormwater management and offers seeds for birds over a plant that requires watering and offers little wildlife benefit.  In the end, this small deliberate choice enhances your life and the lives of those around you.


How does this relate to Places We Love?  I think about places I love personally as those that enhance my own quality of life, essentially they make my life better.  When I think about places that we love as a community, I think about places that make the lives of all of us better.  Sometimes the places I love are not the places we all love.  However, there are times to stand up for places we love, suspending our own personal judgment, because the place enhances our collective quality of life.


The advocacy efforts surrounding the Public Federal Savings Bank in Wynnewood illustrates my point perfectly.  While some may not love it for aesthetic reasons, it does have intrinsic value that makes our community better.  The building has lighting and signage features that are thoughtfully designed and don’t add light pollution or excessively large signs.  Reusing a building reduces waste, cutting down on materials entering landfills.  The walkable nature of the property’s design encourages less people to drive and more to walk, a particularly thoughtful approach for a building right next to a train station.  The deliberation over this mid-century modern bank building was enveloped in the right conversations and raised the right questions in decision-makers minds but ultimately the window closed on adaptively reusing this building.


In addition to taking a community perspective about how Places We Love can enhance our quality of life, we need to think about how to cope with a changing built environment.  Once again, lets be inspired by spring’s perspective.  As soon as the bluebell leaves begin to poke through the leaf litter, our mind focuses on weeding, planting and planning for plants that will do well as the summer heats up. Spring is all about looking ahead.  When it comes to change in the built environment, we must do the same thing … focus on the future.

As I’ve said many times, preservation is not about ‘pickling’ our community but about managing change.  As Lower Merion looks towards wrapping up a Comprehensive Plan for the next 20 years, we must think about the changes we anticipate in our community and how we might put systems in place that ultimately benefit our community.  Thinking about how planned changes in infrastructure, such as road improvements, might encourage more people to ride bicycles rather than drive cars is a perfect example.  Let’s have more conversations about how we expect things to change and what it will take to ensure that these changes add to our collective quality of life.

As we consider how to identify places we love in our community, and how to manage change moving forward, we also need to think about priorities.   The only fortune I ever kept from a cookie reads ‘you can’t be anything, if you are everything.’  As gardeners know, you can’t manage every bit of vegetation everywhere.  As a community, we have to ask ourselves what are the top things we can and should focus on that will result in a measurable difference quality of life.

As we march into spring, I encourage you to join me in thinking about the places in our communities that add to our quality of life and consider how you might look ahead and take action now to use that place you love as a foundation for a brighter future.

Patty Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lower Merion Conservancy and can be reached at patty@lmconservancy.org

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