By Bill McLaughlin
Not only can concerned citizens be "Friends of Rogers Environmental Education Center," but "Friends of Natural Gas" as well. Why not let Rogers generate its own funds? Hydrofracking doesn't just have to be insanely profitable; it can be fun and educational too! Let's take a look at the possibilities.
Imagine cedar boardwalks winding around waste pits and chemical storage tanks, meandering past compressor stations and condensate tanks. What would your kids rather look at, a screaming 100-foot gas flare or a willow hut?
We can still have all the seasonal activities that families enjoy with just a few minor tweaks. For example, Winter Living Celebration can now be the Nuclear Winter Survival Challenge. Join staff botanists in a desperate attempt to find plants that can survive on low-light levels. Prizes go to best "shock and awe" costume.
They'll also be new trails like the "All the Animals That Used to Live Here" trail. See if you can find any evidence of the coyotes, bears, bobcats and other creatures that now prefer more pristine environments like New Jersey.
Introducing the new Compressor Station trail! A great hike on those sultry summer days. … ahhh! Feel the breeze from those diesel turbines! The ever-popular night walks are going to get even better. Thanks to gas well flaring, we'll be able to easily see all the owls and bats and other animals that are too sick to leave.
There will be new animals too. Take your kids to the "Wildcat Den" located at the Adams Farm. Nature truly reveals herself here. From the migration impulse that brings these odd creatures to our area, to the mating habits, territorial disputes, even life-and-death clashes -- it's all here for your nature viewing pleasure behind specially constructed and reinforced observation blinds.
At the Ronald Reagan trailside disinformation board, find out why trees are the planet's largest source of pollution. Also check out the latest on the bedeviled cash borer, already decimating much of the Allegheny National Forest and coming soon to New York's state forests. Also, high school students can drop off their entries for the essay contest, "Why Trees are Always in the Way." First prize is a brand-new Stihl chainsaw courtesy of Commerce Chenango.
Take a stroll down the Halliburton Loop: The whole trail takes at least two terms. You'll encounter sign boards explaining the Clean Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and other unnecessary federal environmental laws. The observant naturalist will note holes bored into the federal legislation caused by the destructive, redstate block-headed woodpecker, an invasive species that, if left unchecked, can parasitize whole ecosystems.
Don't miss the Cornell Cooperative Interactive Exhibit, where state epidemiologists will take a sample of your child's blood and screen it for methyl-benzene, toluene and other pesky chemicals that are sometimes, maybe, sort of connected to gas drilling. Whether or not you "pass" the test -- every child gets a cool coloring book extolling the virtues of "clean-burning natural gas" and a free inhaler!
Finally, we'll need a new name and a catchy slogan. I suggest: "Norgers, Where Industry Puts Nature in Its Place."
Bill McLaughlin, a member of Chenango Forest Watch, lives in New Berlin.