A lengthy article in the International Business Times by Palash Ghosh uses Bucks County, Pa., as a microcosm for the evils of suburban sprawl, and it’s about as harsh as it can get.
Though not unique, of course, Ghosh contends that Bucks County development is a perfect example of the postwar “expansion of suburbia and concurrent gradual disappearance of unspoiled countryside.” Though many people who live in Philadelphia County, for instance, still see Bucks as countryside, 70 percent of the county’s farmlands disappeared between 1950 and 1997, according to figures Ghosh obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
And longtime Bucks residents like Mark Arbeter feel the difference acutely. Arbeter, chief technical strategist at Standard & Poor’s, told Ghosh about his Bucks County youth:
“My house was situated on five acres with the back property line bordering the Neshaminy Creek. On the north side of our property, our neighbors lived in a gorgeous house built in the 1700s with many fireplaces and a spiral staircase. On the south side, our other neighbors lived in a beautiful stone house built in the 1800s. Out front and across the road was a farmer’s field. So, in a simple way, my immediate neighborhood symbolized what Bucks County once was: a rural, farming community with incredible history and architecture.”
Arbeter noted that as a child, he could walk along the banks of the Neshaminy Creek for hours, traversing miles of beautiful countryside and never see another person, a road, or a house.
But that Eden would not last.
Instead, Ghosh writes, Bucks has seen “the gradual and perhaps irreversible destruction of Mother Nature in favor of housing developments, shopping malls, subdivisions, parking lots and office complexes.” Arbeter calls it “devastation.”
The good news? Moving into the city–or simply staying–is trending now, as the suburbs have become less appealing to younger generations. In fact, suburban sprawl, says Ghosh, may have hit a dead end. But is it too late?