This land

The subhead of an article on rich folks and tourist towns by Barbara Ehrenreich, is “In the era of the superrich, if a place is truly beautiful, ordinary people can’t afford to be there.” Possibly that’s the chicken-and-egg question — maybe Ehrenreich believes these places are “truly beautiful” because that’s where the rich people hang out.

But true beauty is all around us, particularly in New York, where you can’t heave a brick without hitting a state park built around some astonishing bit of scenery. A hundred years ago, much of New York’s scenic beauty was owned by the superrich, who all got religion on their deathbeds and conveyed their lands to the State. Perhaps New York’s investment in public parks has destroyed Upstate’s trendiness. Many of the best areas already belong to the people. (Why, even on Cazenovia Lake itself there’s now a state boat launch…)

I still marvel at how unpretentious the Finger Lakes area is, compared to what it could be. There aren’t really any towns there which ooze the “Too-beautiful-for-you” attitude that Ehrenreich notes in the West (although Skaneateles aspires to that). If there was a healthy economy up here, you can bet that the relatively egalitarian access to the Lakes would soon be over.

Politically, I waver between “let’s make New York State work” and “let’s give up on it.” But this is one issue that will send me back to screaming “One New York!” Conservation and public access to wilderness may be ideals imperfectly served, but they are deeply embedded in our Constitution and psyche, no matter what party holds sway. That’s one beauty that the old girl’s still got.