Devon Ashley Barnhart Drohan, daughter of Rick and Leslie Drohan, is a graduating Westborough High School senior (WHS ’09). Her Earth Day Essay on sustainable living and the advantages of creating a bike trail system in Westborough won the Westborough Community Land Trust 2009 Earth Day Essay Contest, and as a result, she was awarded the Westborough Community Land Trust 2009 Scholarship at graduation on June 6. In the fall she will attend the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where she plans to study theatrical set design and technical production.
Winning essay in the 2009 Westborough Community Land Trust 2009 Earth Day Essay Contest
Earth Day Essay 2009
By Devon Ashley Barnhart Drohan (WHS ’09)
Growing up in Westborough has helped me appreciate the value and beauty of our natural environment, but also made me aware of how fragile it is. With a backyard that is bordered by open space, I’ve had the opportunity to observe wildlife and plants that many people seldom see up close: fox, coyotes, fisher cats, wild turkeys, herons, yellow spotted turtles, Lady Slippers, Jack-in-the Pulpits and so much more! I’ve had wonderful teachers who included lessons on Westborough’s natural environment in our science classes and had the opportunity to help with recycling projects in elementary school, ELNA (Education and Leadership for a Non-Violent Age) recycling projects in the Gibbons Middle School, and the Westborough High School Environmental Club. But I’ve also seen how easily development can negatively impact the environment around me. I’ve seen it change the water flow and vegetation in the brook in my backyard; change the amount and types of wildlife I see; and, due to traffic problems, reduce the chances that people will take the time to appreciate the natural beauty around them.
My awareness of how the smallest changes can have a big impact on the environment has made sustainable living a very important cause for me. Some sustainable living measures I have taken in my own life include getting involved in cell phone recycling, donating clothes to non-profits, helping with my family’s garden, and being aware of and limiting my energy usage. Something I would like to be able to do more of is reduce my energy consumption in the area of transportation, but I have found this very difficult to do because of Westborough’s geography and road system. For this reason, a sustainable living measure that I believe could have a huge positive impact on Westborough is supporting bicycling as a form of transportation by creating bicycle trails.
I would love to be able to ride my bike more and drive less, but to do this in Westborough can be dangerous. Bicycles have to travel on congested roads and drivers are often not aware of the bicyclists around them. Our main travel routes like East and West Main Street are not very scenic, and it’s difficult to get across major routes like Route 9 on a bike, making getting to some parts of town and nearby communities difficult.
According to the Worldwatch Institute, an organization that provides data to help makers to create an environmentally sustainable society, bicycles are the most energy efficient form of transportation available. No creature or machine traveling the same distance uses less energy than a person on a bicycle. Even a human walking spends 100 calories per passenger mile, while a person on a bicycle uses 35.
By planning and creating a bike trail system that is away from the main roads, Westborough residents would accomplish many things. They would: Cut down on the amount of energy used for transportation. Nearly half of all car trips in the US are less than three miles and more than a quarter are less than a mile. Provide access to the natural beauty in Westborough. Those in town who do not live near open space would have the opportunity to travel through it, and see and appreciate some of the natural world that they don’t have easy access to now. Provide an opportunity for physical activity. There are 385 bicycles per 1,000 people in the US, but 1,000 bicycles per 1,000 people in the Netherlands. In the US, the obesity rate is 30.6 percent. In the Netherlands, it is 10 percent. Help the citizens of Westborough reduce the need to pay high gas prices, making it possible for them to support our economy in other ways. Contribute to tourism. The Cape Cod Rail Trail and other bicycle trails in New England attract people who are health- and environmentally-minded and contribute to our economy. Provide adults and youth with an opportunity to work together to build something that we are proud of and make Westborough an even better place to live!
Fortunately, people in Massachusetts and the US seem to be getting behind the idea of bicycling as a contributor to sustainable living. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed the Bicyclist Safety Bill in January of this year, and there are several bike trails in the region underway and others being planned. By creating our own bike trails in Westborough, we can contribute to sustainable living in our town, our region, our state and our country.
The Thank You Letter
June 14, 2009
Dear Westborough Community Land Trust,
I would like to thank the members of the Westborough community Land Trust for the scholarship I have received and the opportunity to participate in the essay contest. I believe your essay contest is a wonderful way for students to have the opportunity to express their thoughts about our community, the environment, and how we and others can play a part in preserving the beauty and resources around us.
I’ve been very fortunate to grow up in a part of town that has abundant wildlife, a wide variety of plants, wildflowers and trees, and a stream running through my back yard that attracts reptiles, amphibians and other wildlife. I’ve seen my share of wild turkeys, deer, rabbits, fox, and even a fisher cat (scary as they may be, they are remarkable animals.) There is such a rich environment in my backyard alone and in Westborough in general that it wasn’t hard for me to find the inspiration for my essay. Too, with wonderful teachers like Mrs. Allison Gergely, who was my science teacher in the seventh grade and with whom I often discussed environmental issues and my wild backyard environment, and with the opportunity to participate in the Westborough High School environmental club, I’ve been thinking about issues like sustainability and my role in creating a sustainable environment for quite a while.
I appreciate the privilege of sharing my views with the WCLT, and it’s so nice to know that I have been heard and recognized. It is truly my wish for others my age to become more involved and share their opinions on how the community can be helped, and know they can be heard and taken seriously by those with more experience. Again, thank you so much for this opportunity and scholarship. It means a lot to me.
Devon Ashley Barnhart Drohan