Friday, April 1, 2011

"My Back Yard": A Guest Blog by Alicia Abbott

Alicia Abbott, Holderness, wrote the essay posted below several months ago. It coincides with the recent reclamation of the derisive term, NIMBY, "Not In My Back Yard," as NHIMBY, "New Hampshire Is My Back Yard," first used by an opposition member in a comment on a Union Leader article. Another opposition member has designed the graphic to the left and given permission for all to use it. (Email for a larger format version.) Three unrelated people from different parts of the state have come together and created a powerful new identity that proudly proclaims who we are and why we are engaged in this battle to save New Hampshire from unnecessary industrialization of the landscape.

My Back Yard
Reprinted by permission of the author, Alicia Abbott

I’m sure you have heard that Northeast Utilities, the parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire, along with NSTAR and Hydro-Quebec wants to run a 180 mile “extension cord” from the Quebec border to Deerfield, NH and then on to southern New England. Currently New England has no need for this additional power and, in fact, has the excess capacity to generate 5,000 megawatts of electricity beyond what consumers demand on peak days.  Opposition to Northern Pass is great and is growing.

Late last month, in an interview with the Laconia Citizen, Public Service of NH President, Gary Long suggested that the opposition to the Northern Pass project was mostly a “not-in-my-backyard kind of thing.”  At first I was incredibly angered by this statement.   How could he trivialize the concerns of citizens up and down the proposed project corridor by saying, their concerns are just self-serving ‘NIMBY’ concerns.  Then I got thinking, maybe he is right…let me explain.

I DON’T want this project in “my back yard” but you see, I have rather a large back yard.  It starts way up north in Pittsburgh where my, then new, husband and I spent our first, very chilly, Easter weekend.  It includes Colebrook where, as a child, I spent winter weekends with my family and friends snowshoeing and snowmobiling and enjoying a “winter wonderland”.   It continues south to Lancaster were my father’s family, the Amadon family, all lived and had homes and where his brother, my uncle and Godfather, kept a home as his own escape from the busy streets of Manchester.   I have particularly pleasant memories of time spent in that house on Grange Rd and my lovable Uncle Russ. 

Also in my back yard are the towns of Thornton, Campton, Plymouth, Ashland and, our current town of Holderness.  Seventeen years ago my husband and I chose to move to this area because of its small town wholesomeness and multi-town community.  We fell in love with the scenic beauty of the lakes and mountains.  We’ve raised three children here, in a neighborhood that borders on the existing power corridor.   Never did we think that we could find ourselves living in the shadow of 135’ utility towers that would scar our hillside neighborhood.

Moving south in my backyard you’ll see the city of Concord where my parents worked and where I got my first job right out of college.  Turn a little to the east and you’ll see Chichester – such a memorable part my backyard.  Here you see the Sanborn Family farm, on Smith Sanborn Rd, where my great-grandfather, grandfather and mother were born and raised.  Just this week I told my 80-year-old mother of the possibility of the construction of 135’ towers on the hills behind “the farm”.   It made her sad to think that her childhood playground could be forever marred.   Chichester is also where my husband and I started our lives together and from where we traveled all that way to Pittsburgh for our first Easter.

And finally, my backyard extends from Manchester where I was born, Claremont where I grew up, New London where I went to College and Portsmouth where we love to escape to the ocean.  Maybe you’ve gotten the idea already, but my backyard is 9,351 square miles large, it contains big cities, small towns, hills, mountains, lakes, ponds, rivers, streams, fields and forests.  It is a rare gem among states and a refuge for many who are not fortunate enough to live here.  

The proposed Northern Pass project which would forever scar 180 miles of our state, including a brand new 40 miles of eyesore in the most scenic areas north of the notches, stands to threaten so much of what we in NH love about our ‘backyard’. So, yes, maybe Gary Long is right, this is a “NIMBY” issue or better yet, a “NIMSBY” issue – Not In My STATE’S Back Yard.