Want vs. Need

The Londonderry Conservation Commission was in the midst of spending up to $28,000 to have the town’s contracted planner prepare a web-based outdoor recreation guide for its conservation land when funding problems brought it to a halt.
The concept is interesting, but if ever there were a classic definition of a “want” rather than a “need,” this fits the bill.
Acting at the direction of the Town Council to make Town Open Space lands more accessible, the Commission also said it had an email giving the go-ahead from the former town manager via the former town attorney to spend the money on the guide from the Open Space Fund.
The new town attorney says otherwise, and the commission put the project on hold. Meanwhile, it’s left holding the bag and trying to figure out how to pay for what it has already spent.
While other towns have not moved in the direction of such elaborate ways to inform people of local conservation land options, it raises the issue of why such a project was initiated in the first place.
Residents can go on line in most towns, Londonderry included, to find out information about conservation lands and the opportunities for recreation that they offer. They can certainly pay a visit to their town hall and get that information in person as well – and in an area that likes to pride itself on being rural, dropping in at Town Hall and chatting with someone to get a map or some other information should be a welcome part of that lifestyle.
Instead, we see a town spend money to hire a contracted planner, and then come up with a variety of projects to fund with the planner’s services. But with the Open Space Fund off limits, paying for such a proposal as Londonderry wanted would have to come out of tax funds. And that, of course, begs the question of whether that is the appropriate use of tax money in times like these, when tax bills make it hard for the average person even to keep their home.
We’ve made a choice to live in a state with high property taxes, but coming up with a flashy way to access recreation information – information, mind you, not the recreation itself – is about as low on the list of funding priorities as you can get.
Our towns’ open space lands give us a big benefit, whether it’s land near our homes on which we can snowshoe or hike or bike or hunt or just appreciate the quiet and the scenery. We don’t need a fancy, and high priced, guide to help us figure that out.

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