Do bike paths a community make?

While at a recent community meeting, where the discussion was mainly about bike paths and extending existing trails, I had a feeling of dismay come over me. While being passionate is a wonderful trait, and while I am not the one to say who should be passionate about what, I found it very hard to listen to all of this talk of beautification. With all that is going on in the world and in our very own community of Chester, the thought that we were spending an evening discussing the finer points of bike paths and trails brought me down.

I am all for living in a beautiful community. Who doesn’t want to see gorgeous landscaping and bike paths where people can frolic with their families and “go green” and ride their bikes to work? (Even though, I have to say, at least half of the community will not benefit from this unless we put a bike path up Interstate 95 North headed toward Richmond.) I appreciate all of the zoning laws that our elected officials seem to spend an agonizing time perfecting; I do not wish to have a Wawa in my front yard, so for this, I do say thank you. So, you see where I’m going; yes, I love living somewhere that is aesthetically pleasing, but were we not all taught not to judge a book by its cover? I think that can apply to this lovely little village.

The people are the ones who make up a great community. We are the community; without us, there would be no Chester. I feel like we are neglecting our people because, as much as you might not like to think about it, there are people who live in Chester who are more concerned about how they are going to put food on the table than they are about where the bike paths are going to go. We need to do something about this; we need to work together and support one another on a human level, arm in arm, hand in hand, face to face. It’s easy to just drop canned goods off at the church or donate things you have no use for to Goodwill, and while that helps, it’s helping at arms length.

That’s the problem these days. Not only do we not take care of our neighbors, half of us don’t even know our neighbors’ names. How can we help one another when we aren’t even aware of who needs help? And this is our fault, no one else’s. If we do not make the effort, then who will? This is why I was so disappointed at the community meeting. I feel like there is a lot more to helping the community than putting up benches on street corners and extending trails. Now, not everything these organizations do is aesthetically centered; there are plans for a community garden in the works, as well as other community building (people building) ideas. I think I was just disappointed at how passionate people are over things that seem so meaningless to me.

It feels as though we are trying to create a “Stepford” community. If we have beautiful new buildings, bike paths and trails and gorgeous landscaping, maybe people will think that Chester is the best thing around. Just add the robotic wives and you are set to go. Think about this: If you were riding your bike down one of the new bike paths, passing lush greenery as you whizzed by, and saw a woman stopped on the road with a broken down car full of children, what would you do? Would you continue to the end of the bike path and then start thinking about how to get the county to extend it, or do you turn around and offer help to the family that needs it?

You can fight for bike paths and art centers or you can start concerning yourself with the heart of this community, the people. While the outside may be beautiful, if we are not taking care of our own, then there is nothing to Chester except a bunch of buildings and a slowly dying sense of family, which is what drew most people to this village in the first place. We can have the best of both worlds, but we need to start by taking care of what matters, the people, and then moving forward with those very people that were helped to build Chester into a shining beacon of peace and well being. The most beautiful communities are founded by those working together – all people, not just some of them, the ones you think should be building it. We all live here, we are all citizens of this charming little village and with all of us working together, hand in hand, we can make Chester one of the best communities in Virginia, bike paths and all.

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