Serving today by future change

December 25th, 2009

by Herb Hiller

One of the simplest deferred gratifications I enjoy is making the bed. I make it after I awake so that come evening, getting ready for sleep, I burrow beneath the layered sheet, comforter and blanket, pick up the book I’m reading, and feel myself in heaven.

Deferred gratification came to mind while lately making the bed soon after I had been working on Greenway matters. While in the leisurely mindset that Sundays allow, I had thought through a move that would take more time to bear fruit than acquiring the coin so immediately needed to resolve our financial crisis.

Yet we also know that the future never happens unless we bite off and chew today’s piece, then tomorrow’s. Later, having day by day bitten off and chewed enough, our future rolls out while we’ve also cured our crisis.

Like climate change, isn’t it? With a million priorities here and now, can’t we just leave the future for when we get to it?

What I had in mind while making the bed was connecting what the Alliance does for trails to a highly regarded Florida public policy think tank. If Florida’s Collins Center is concerned about sustainability, which it is, mightn’t we have a ready connection? Isn’t the Greenway about sustainability? And while the Collins Center has largely focused on issues of politics, economics, education and conservation, might we not also see ourselves in that arena even while day to day engaged in matters of recreation, tourism, and getting where we need to go without having to get in our cars with all the benefits that our kind of change might confer on all the coastal places where we live?

I had already approached the think tankpresident and now only had to propose meeting dates. Yet now I would also more fully have to organize the long-term benefits that trails bring to Florida. What steps would I recommend for connecting trails more directly to sustainability? How could we demonstrate the most efficient contribution of trails for helping Florida live within its irreplaceable systems? How might trails extend that capacity? In these times, how might trails help redefine what it means to be Floridian? How might trails beneficially influence the outcome of 1,000 people a day that might again start relocating to the Sunshine State?

If trails supplied answers, and considering the cost efficiency that trails represent as against highways, might trails not finally find the support we seek in the Florida Legislature? And isn’t this altogether timely, considering that in 2008 American Trails awarded Florida charter honors as best trails state in America, while only a few months later the legislature sought to abolish Florida’s Office of Greenways and Trails that precisely through its achievements led Florida to its national honors?

Meanwhile, if the Alliance helped lead Florida in this direction, might we also not be doing precisely what we do best? We’ve always said that we neither build nor maintain trails. Instead, we work to influence others to do this. Yet if we lead in this direction, don’t we also make ourselves indispensable? Don’t we more forcefully make the case for why we deserve to stay in business?

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