Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Exploring the urban prairie

I work in East St. Louis, and on occasion move around the city from time to time either as a part of my job, or just to get a bite to eat. So, I get to see a fair share of urban prairie. As an urbanite, I find it rather depressing. I'll say a little more about it below the fold.

There is an interesting variety to the prairie. Sometimes the grass is so thick and high you'd never know anything had been built there at all. For example, along 13th between Exchange and Lynch there are multi-lot sized sections of meadow, which currently feature some wild, pretty, blue flowers (as of yesterday, anyhow). Other times, you can still see large patches of asphalt or concrete that have not yet successfully been buried, such as along State street between 81st and 85th. Presumably, much of this land belongs to the city. So, not only does the city need to pay for whatever upkeep there is on the property (the grass does need to be cut every month or so, at least along State Street), but it brings in no revenue. As more and more land becomes deserted, it becomes harder to support basic services for the remaining residents.

I wonder how long this can continue. Unlike East Coast cities, we still don't have land shortages here in the Midwest. So, O'Fallon, Shiloh, Troy, etc. are all growing, talking about getting new interstate exits, etc., while land much closer to St. Louis languishes. Eventually, the USA will have enough population pressure that this land will be used again. I wonder how long that will take.

Some of the land is apparently going to community gardens. In the next 50 years, we'll see full-scale farms? Can the latest 10 million help reverse the trend? I wonder if I will se a turnaround in my life time (based on family history, another 40 years or so).

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