REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Limits and trust

It's not about protecting the river or protecting property rights. Those are just the symptoms. It's about trust. As in, people just don't trust the government anymore.
Commentary
May 4, 2010

 

It's not about protecting the river or protecting property rights. Those are just the symptoms.

It's about trust.

As in, people just don't trust the government anymore.

That's why a seemingly innocuous, maybe even beneficial, idea such as designating the Vermiliion River a state scenic river is met with anger and implacable opposition from those who live and own land along the river.

The stated benefits seem to be reasonable enough: Protect the health and quality of the river with state money and promote the river as an asset to tourism and quality of life in the Vermilion River watershed.

At no time, the state insists, was there any thought of seizing riverfront private property.

But Vermilion River property owners, mindful perhaps of the decade-and-more ugliness between Huron River property owners and the succession of entities backing the Huron River Greenway, aren't buying. They insist that any river protection measures will result in their property rights being eroded away, which is the same thing in their minds as seizing property.

The recent meeting between property owners and the state is indicative of that: Neither side really seemed to hear the other's arguments.

On the face of it, we can't see the harm and we can see the benefits of protecting a river that enhances the value of the property the owners are trying to protect.

But the cold fact is, in an era of mistrust of government and a here-I-stand, here-shall-I-remain mentality among those who have been able to secure a place to stand, the state has an arduous task ahead of it, trying to convince people this plan can do some good.

There's a lot of history to overcome.