Last week Avondale ceremonially "opened the valve" on a new water pipe designed to improve the flow for people in the southern part of the borough, courtesy of state and county grants. On hand were state and county officials who praised the project and commented on the benefits of providing infrastructure support for "urban" centers.
Particularly insightful were the observations of state Rep. Chris Ross, R-158, of East Marlborough Township, who is the minority chair of the Urban Affairs Committee in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He said he considers even the smallest of towns like Avondale to be "urban," and added that, "When it comes to revitalization, you can't do it if the infrastructure in not updated."
That is why, he said, he supports grants for population hubs like Avondale.
We have heard a lot this past month about maintaining and improving the environment. Every weekend this month, it seems, brings another ceremony dedicated to planting trees, enhancing the stream, expanding open spaces and developing parks. And we support that zeal.
But during "green" April, the importance of urban centers - including sewage treatment plants, small housing lots and accommodating heavy traffic -- must not be neglected or relegated to a lower level of importance.
Little towns like Avondale, Kennett Square and West Grove are centers of commerce. They are places where people can buy the goods they need to live, including the grass seed, tractors and hoses they need to maintain their open spaces.
They provide clumps of culture where people can come together to get information and expand their spirits. In urban centers there are parking lots, theaters, restaurants and libraries. When special events take place, urban centers are gathering spots for large groups of people and the destination for those who seek entertainment.
Even in the most primitive of small towns, there have historically been centers - barbershops, cracker barrel hardware stores and corner delis -- where people stop by to meet up with friends to share gossip. Those centers, many of them within walking distance of large numbers of people, form a locus of cooperation and support for neighbors in need.
Urban centers are also economic engines for the greater region. They are a place where trucks can come in and deliver goods for sale. They are a place where banks sit ready to issue loans and move large amounts of money. They are a central area where families from the hinterland can come in and get a mortgage for a new home or borrow money for the next year's growing season.
Finally, the small towns and boroughs provide higher density and often more economical housing for people who cannot afford to buy large tracts of land in the country. These "urban" dwellers provide services for their rural friends who need police protection, social and customer services, public school teaching and municipal support. As vital members of society, they deserve the same recognition, support and infrastructure updates as their country cousins who plant the riparian buffers and put their land in preservation.
It's April. It's the month of the environment, Earth Day and green living.
But remember that country mice and city mice depend on each other, and support for the urban infrastructure is as commendable a goal as saving the fields and forests.