This Is Why I Preserve: Alexander Walls
As part of a new series titled This Is Why I Preserve, we’re giving ESLC’s staff, board members, volunteers, donors, and supporters the opportunity to share why they became interested in preservation and why it is unique to them.
The next story comes from Alexander Walls. He is a former intern of Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and currently serves in the United States Marine Corps.
We invite you to share your story too! We believe that everyone has role in preserving the quality of life that we enjoy on the Eastern Shore, and we believe those stories deserve to be told.
“Within is a country that may have the prerogative over the most pleasant places known, for large and pleasant navigable rivers, heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation.” Captain John Smith, 1609
My version of heaven is a sunny, warm day canoeing down the Chester River. Being out on the river, past and future seem to melt away as time evaporates into a warm breeze.
But though my memories of summers on the Chester River and in the forests, fields, and towns of the Eastern Shore remind me of a simpler, more idyllic time, these places are neither eternal or guaranteed.
My first memories of the importance of open space was when my family put the empty lot next to my childhood home up for sale. Even though it was devoid of vegetation and shade, that empty piece of land still provided hours of fun for the neighborhood’s children. After the realtor’s sign went up, I would pull off the “For Sale” banner and throw it in the ditch. Hey, it was the mid-90’s! Other activists were doing worse…
I didn’t win that battle; the land was sold and a house was built on it. It may be just causation but we neighborhood kids seemed to play less together after we lost our turf. Throughout the rest of my childhood, more and more land was consumed by row after of row of monochromatic houses and shopping centers. Once stately farms and pristine forests were bulldozed and replaced by sprawl. “Wealth Creation!” “Economic Development!” Progress!” These phrases were used by everyone and they demonstrated a shared delusion that we could only move forward through the total destruction of our heritage: cultural, historical, and environmental.
Little did I know but at this same time, a small band of visionaries were witnessing this same destruction and acted to stem the tide. The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy was pulling the “For Sale” signs off our farms, forests, and wetlands. The lands they preserved provided gathering places for people to connect with each other and the natural world. These areas provided sanctuary to countless species of plants and animals, many unique to our oasis and some on the edge of extinction.
By chance, I was able to intern with ESLC off and on for over 3 years. I taught school children the importance of caring for their environment at the Sassafras Environmental Education Center, monitored easements with a small digital camera, and helped fundraise to provide resources to preserve more land and communities. Though I left to serve my country in the United States Marine Corps and am literally “seeing the world”, I still carry a burning desire for the smell of brackish waters under a setting sun.
ESLC has spent 30 successful years stemming the tide of urban sprawl and guarding our little oasis for the destructive side of modern civilization. But forces greater than land developers are encroaching on our piece of paradise. This gathering storm threatens to bring a new “tide” that will consume the Shore’s communities, both human and natural. Our life blood, the brackish waters of the Bay, is being turned against us. The lands, towns, and people of the Eastern Shore need help in guarding against and preparing for the tides that will batter our places. ESLC, through its Delmarva Oasis initiative, is protecting new lands to foster more resilient towns, farms, and ecosystems. These lands will continue to provide food of people living in the great metropolitan regions of the east coast while also creating new migration corridors for species whose ranges are shifting with climate patterns. Like a web, these lands will connect nature and humans together for the shared benefit of all.
Until I am able to return home and roll up my sleeves, I give monthly to ESLC in order to provide capital to invest in a stronger, more resilient Shore. I preserve to provide open fields for children and animals to run free. I preserve to provide farmers and watermen a healthy environment to grow and harvest our food. I preserve to provide countless generations a place to feel a timeless breeze push them down a slow moving river. I preserve so that we can realize a dream of a vibrant, interconnected region that creates a little piece of heaven here on Earth. If you share this dream, preserve with me!
– Alex Walls
What's Your Story?
We want you to tell your story too! Drop us an email to share why preservation is important to you.
If you’d like to be featured in the This Is Why I Preserve series, email Darius Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help you share your story!