Reflections on Place

Students in this year’s Understanding Place course will be exploring a shared place — the Otter Creek watershed — and a place of their own through several lenses in order to build a toolkit that will allow them to better understand any place. That toolkit will, in turn, allow students to teach others about the importance of understanding place while working towards positive social and environmental change. Below under the “Comments” section of this post you will find ongoing reflections about the place that each student has chosen, written in light of their readings, discussions, and activities from each week.


  1. Savannah Thompson says:

    Savannah Thompson
    Montevallo, Alabama

    1. Savannah Thompson says:

      Montevallo is a small “college town” directly in the heart of Alabama. It is characterized by local art and an atmosphere much more liberal than the state of Alabama as a whole. If you search for the town online, you are likely to find the faces of the trees carved by Tim Tingle in Orr Park. The old cedars in the park would have been cut down if not for this local artist’s transformation.

      Shoal Creek runs through the city, and there are swimming holes hidden in the woods that locals like to enjoy, such as Falling Rock. Ebenezer Swamp is an Ecological Preserve located on Spring Creek that is home to an abundance of plants and animals, among them beavers, turkey, sycamore and Tupelo gum trees, and a rare species of coneflower. It is also a host to classes and research, and features art sculptures made from recycled steel created by the University of Montevallo art program. Both Ebenezer Swamp and Spring Creek are part of the Cahaba River watershed. The Cahaba is the longest free-flowing river in Alabama and an environmental wonder.

      I have lived in Montevallo for three years now and now that it is a very special “place” that is hard for many people to leave. There is a very strong sense of community and a love for that community present. There are many aspects of the ecology and geography that make the town special, but it is the people who KEEP it special.

      1. Savannah Thompson says:

        In looking at Orr Park and the part of Shoal Creek that runs through it as a bioregion, its ecological sustainability results from human attempts to connect others to the area. I am writing specifically about Tim Tingle and the art he has left in the trees of Orr Park and the educational aspects of Ebenezer Swamp. The points from “the story of bioregionalism” in our reading “Interpreting bioregionalism” includes “attraction of an artistic, intellectual and literary vanguard”. This aspect definitely applies to both Orr Park and Ebenezer Swamp. They both encompass art that reflects nature, such as the dragonfly sculptures in the swamp. There is also literature to educate visitors, such as the signs in Ebenezer that teach about everything from plants to water sediment, and books for those who are more interested. I think the human-nature aesthetic allows for both engagement and fosters a connection to these areas, most crucially in younger generations.

        I would consider these areas bioregions in the sense of their waterways, but perhaps the human-defined lines that would only go as far as to define the park or the boardwalk in Ebenezer Swamp as its boundaries. But our actions that affect these areas go far beyond that. And I think that the protection and education of these areas is what is going to allow for bioregionalism to be possible in Montevallo.

      2. Savannah Thompson says:

        Post no. 3

        Reading Virtual Water (Kumar) gave me a new perspective and appreciation for both local and imported products. There are so many resources, such as water, that go into the production of the commodities and food that we buy that are taken for granted. Montevallo is a town in which little is made local. We have a small farmer community that makes local produce successful and contributes to a couple local businesses. There is also a small organic farm funded by the university that provides for low-income families. The area has the potential to contribute to the area much more, offering local, natural food to the region. But this may compromise local waterways. The increase of nitrogen and phosphorous discharges have correlated with increase in croplands in the Birmingham area.

        The Cahaba River is a free-flowing river and a tributary to the Alabama River. It is affected by the urbanized city of Birmingham and its surrounding counties, which include Montevallo. Croplands discharge nutrients into the watersheds, and the addition of nitrogen compounds due to human activity in the Cahaba River has affected its biogeochemistry (Springer). I believe that understanding the impacts that humans have on a respective “place” can allow us to envision ways in which we may bolster sustainability.

        “Water quality modeling of the Cahaba River, Alabama” by Springer (2004).

    2. Savannah Thompson says:

      Post 3: Indigenous peoples and relation to place

      Our reading and discussion of indigenous peoples brings us back to the definition of place, and the notion that humans are a notable aspect of what makes up a place.

      I think it speaks measures that despite the atrocious history of the Abenake peoples and the immensity of what their ancestors went through, they still remain in the same place. The land is what connects and enlightens the Abenake as well as other indigenous peoples.

      There is much to learn from native peoples. Living in the same area and being connected with the land allows people to notice climate change from the landscape rather than science, such as peoples living in the north noting the melting of ice where they fish (, or learning medicinal properties of plants through trial and error as well as from a spiritual experience with the land.

      There is a lack of Native American history in Montevallo. If stories were present that offered a history more inclusive of the land, I believe that dwellers would feel more akin to the natural aspects of the town. There is a sense of respect and rapport that exists through the telling of stories.

      1. Savannah Thompson says:

        Edit: Post 4

    3. Savannah Thompson says:

      Post 5- Shadow Places

      It is not a surprise that such a conservative state like Alabama fosters many shadow places. Shadow places are the places that are far from our train of thought, but places that suffer as a result of our demanding lifestyle. In the Birmingham area you will find a myriad of BBQ hot-spots that are a result of factory farming and migrant workers; in most places you can only recycle two types of plastic (#s 1 and 2); and few places recycle glass or hazardous materials, such as batteries. Apparently, the landfill in Shelby County (which contains Montevallo) does not accept hazardous materials, but I doubt that the workers go through the trash and sort out what shouldn’t be there. Our actions are polluting the Earth and we don’t even see it. It is far to easy to dispose of our materialism in the trash.

      Corporations are prevalent where I live, unlike here in Vermont. Our dining hall food on campus is all imported, and none of it is organic. We don’t even compost in order to give back, but allow food to build up in landfills where it is released as CO2. As a higher-education institution, we should be more focused on where our commodities come from and to whom our actions are affecting. We should step up and take action in order to reveal what these shadow places are and to attempt to shift our decision-making to be more sustainable and aware. If we do not do this, these places will come out of the shadows and be right in our front yards.

  2. Emily Harrington says:

    Emily Harrington
    St. Lawrence University

    1. Emily Harrington says:

      “…I’m from” Post no. 1

      When I graduated last month, I commented to my friend Jane – who had just a year before graduated from here – that I was excited to enter a phase of my life where my go-to introduction would no longer be, “Hi, I’m Emily, I go to St. Lawrence,” as a sought to find my new, here it is, ‘place’ in the world. In floating around Midd for the past few weeks, however, I found myself grasping for some new identifier to add to my name. My intro went from “Hi I’m Emily, I go to St. Lawrence,” to “Hi, I’m Emily, I just finished at St. Lawrence” – a radical change, I know.

      In reflecting on what “I’m from St. Lawrence,” means to me, I realized that instead of an identifier, I might have been searching for a context. Or maybe I was grasping for the people amongst whom I had come into my own over the last four years in spaces like Commons College, the Java Barn, and the Dub. Or maybe I was grasping for the familiar rough granite of the Adirondacks, the warm red brick of SLU’s oldest buildings, or the ski tracks carved by Nordic skier on their ways to class.

      I started feeling as though, just as I had to leave, I had finally grown up enough to recognize St. Lawrence as its own cultural watershed, if you will. I had finally realized that St. Lawrence, where 18 to 24 year old “raindrops” falling on the Northwestern edge of the Adirondacks gather every September – amongst the primary growth pine forests of reclaimed farmland and the old growth stands of maple sugar – is in fact nestled within a larger North Country watershed where “raindrops” of the homesteader generation have been pooling and organizing and interacting with the history of the area for decades before I even thought of attending St. Lawrence. So, although it’s a little late for me to explore St. Lawrence through the lens of “place” as an active participant in the North Country community, I hope that I will be able to share how important St. Lawrence is to me. I will keep updating as I attain new ecological, geographical, temporal, and phenomenological lenses through which to reflect upon St. Lawrence and the role it plays in my life.

      1. Emily Harrington says:

        Bioregionalism and Congressional Candidates
        Post no. 2

        Christopher McGrory Klyza, professor of Political Science in the Environmental Studies Department at Middlebury College summarizes, “one of the major problems with theories calling for significant changes in the way modern societies and institutions are designed is that they are too abstract, removed from practical concerns and issues,” a problem he says applies to the theory of Bioregionalism. When I thought about how to apply the ideals of bioregionalism to the region surrounding St. Lawrence, however, it seemed an almost perfect fit.

        As an environmentalist, a graduate of a small university, and a generally optimistic individual, I was intrigued by the idea of bioregionalism. A reorganization of political boundaries around ecological patterns rather than human-imposed edges, the subsequent engagement in local food systems, pride in and preservation of local wild spaces – the list goes on – all seemed, a tremendous, novel take on large scale environmentalism. Though, as Klyza discussed with our class on Wednesday – sitting on the bank of Lake Pleiad just off the historic Long Trail in the middle of a human-mediated wilderness, no less – bioregionalism has faded since the 1990s, having been contextualized within the global climate change.

        Which leads to the question – is turning inwards and focusing on our own ecological region and its preservation a problematically narrow way of addressing global climate change and the issues that accompany it? To my thinking, it is not, nor is it mutually exclusive to outward facing, globally affective ideals of cooperation amongst bioregions. Though perhaps the pure-bioregionalism movement has morphed into a more delineated set of localism movements, from food systems to recreation to politics, I still am confident that connection to place on a personal level – including but not limited to the sensual connections described by Abram in Becoming Animal – is central to all of these movements, and is a significant part of the troublingly abstract task of changing the way society operates to adapt to and protect our changing environment.

        In visiting St. Lawrence and the surrounding region, one can already observe the ideals of bioregionalism in action. As a hub of commune formation in the 60s and 70s and the home of several homesteaders today, the North Country boasts a strong local food community. Even beyond the more obvious examples of bioregionalism’s utopian, socialist ideals found on communes and homesteads, residents of the North Country as a whole are extremely connected to their unique place just beyond the Adirondack Park. For example: the voting records of the North Country. In meeting with Mike Derrick, a candidate for Congress running to represent the North Country, I learned that 36% North Country voters cast their ballots across party lines in each election, as opposed to a 9% national average. Clearly, those who consider the North Country their home are engaging actively with the current systems of societal organization to protect and promote their ‘place’.

        A paradigm shift which would transform states into regions and nations into communities by shifting from exploitation of natural spaces to conservation, focus on stability rather than progress, and promote cooperation over competition would be a paradigm shift to align societies’ operation with those of the natural systems upon which we depend (Sale, 1985). As it pertains to the North Country, I could not think of a more just way of reorganizing society around the perils of climate change.

      2. Emily Harrington says:

        Sensing Place
        A poem on the separateness
        of the margins of the Java Concert Venue
        Post no. 3

        The heat of bodies –
        Swaying and swooning
        Recognizing and reaching
        Craning and careening
        is broken by a screen
        of cold, fresh air
        fresh enough
        except for the clouds of smoke
        mixed and rolled
        sealed and shared
        step aside
        around and out
        through and into

        pass the lights
        dim the sound
        for a breath
        from scents of blue ribbon winning
        cup suddenly too full,
        heavy and thick and spilling on snow
        butane sparking
        illuming circles of friends and strangers
        membranes between social strata
        pulsing and permeable
        as easily joined as escaped

        What a sky
        Obscured partly
        By pine needles
        Somehow cloudless
        Above the low,
        Repurposed buildings
        Of the Java – Geology –
        Concert quad

        Amidst fallen pines
        Reflecting on Now
        Papers read and mulled over
        Schumacher and Sartre
        Drinking screw top wine
        I could have sworn last night
        I read a poem you wrote
        And now this band is singing those same lines

        But what a sky

        Out from under branches
        A cloud appears
        Not of our making
        Carrying thoughts and songs
        Sounds and sentiments
        To here,
        Two square
        Twenty miles from our namesake
        And ages removed from anything else

      3. Emily Harrington says:

        A Note of Context

        The above poem is written in the same vein as a poem I wrote for class this week, in which I attempted to infuse David Abrams’ ideas of sensual experience of place. For class I chose to reflect on a spot along the TAM, but for the blog I thought I would try to apply this Abramian lens to one of my favorite places at St. Lawrence – the Java Barn music venue. More specifically, I chose to focus on the sense of separation attained when standing apart from the crowd just off to the side under a couple of trees leading to the adjacent soccer fields. Though it is a clear departure from the more naturalistic setting of my poem for class, I hope this piece achieves the same end goal of drawing attention to the sensual experience of place we so often forget to have.

      4. Emily Harrington says:

        Boundaries, Edges, and Partnership
        Post no. 4

        In reflecting on ‘my’ place thus far, my temporal scope has been limited by the bounds of first hand experience, in one way or another. The four years I spent at St. Lawrence provided the basis from which I determined the relevance to my time there of a host of intertemporal phenomena. That I was attending barn parties or sweat lodges with friends at welcoming farms around the county rendered the 60 years of homesteading a salient part of my experience. That the Adirondacks provided regular weekend or afternoon getaways rendered the 500 million years of their rocky development germane to my four years visiting them. That I was even attending St. Lawrence as woman made the establishment of the University as the first coed college in New York pertinent to my sense of place there. The list goes on and spans widely from the historical precedents of eighties ski accouterments (see: Titus Global Cooldown Winter Weekend Event, every February) to the historical integrity of the Montreal sewer system (see: Montreal dumps 2 billion gallons of raw sewage into St. Lawrence River, Nov 2015). I won’t woolgather on the origins of such a self-centered curating of temporal significance except to attribute it to the Abramian, sensual experience of place I reflected upon last week. That may be a bit forgiving, so, please, forgive me.

        Having been tasked with gathering information on the historical peoples of our place, I spent Monday and Tuesday evening reading up on the history of the Akwesasne Mohawk reservation, which straddles a section of the St. Lawrence River not far from SLU, and spans across the borders of two countries and two provinces.
        The disparate conceptions of ‘place’ represented by these cross sectional edges of what is otherwise an indivisible and sacred piece of land speaks to a larger sense of separateness between those who indulge the cultural narratives of ‘America’ and ‘Canada’ and those who do not. Which leads me to wonder if my rather egotistical conception of ‘place’ is rendered less meaningful by its failure to acknowledge the history of this people. As a student of the humanities, I would consider myself aware of the general history of US imperialism and violence against the country’s original inhabitants, and the monumentally raw deals their descendants have been handed by the government, but is that enough?

        Personally, I don’t think it is. I do, however, see in this confrontation of my own flawed emplacedness, an opportunity to ‘unother’ the people with whom I obliviously shared the last four years of my life. That is not to say that I plan to visit the Akwesasne reservation and offer my help – there is perhaps no more historically damaging practice of ‘othering’ than the presumption of one’s role in a relationship as ‘the helper’. Rather, I hope to remember and act upon my (our) inherent role as a ‘partner’.

        Even as we spent an afternoon studying and discussing the history of the Abenaki tribe of Southern Vermont and the historical abuses of the US and Vermont governments against the Algonquian and Iroquois peoples, I was reminded of a story Peter Forbes told a few weeks ago of a woman from a similarly ‘othered’ group. Classy Parker, of 1990-something 125th Street, reminded Peter, as he entered her community garden as a representative of the Trust for Public Land, “If you have come here to help me you’re wasting your time. But Peter, if you have come here because your success is bound up with my success then we have some work to do together,” a sentiment which rings true in almost every scenario we’ve studied in the past few weeks.

        Z.A. recently defined sustainable development as seeking, “in part to imagine, then create, a just climate future,” a conception of sustainability which I believe to encapsulate the lessons and subsequent call to action to be gleaned from my narcissistic emplacedness, the history of the Abenaki and others who’ve been ‘othered’, and our (read: everyone’s) role as ‘partners’ in the future.

      5. Emily Harrington says:

        Reference, Reverence, and Realizations
        St. Lawrence and the Politics of Dwelling
        final post

        I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that musician Father John Misty was thinking of ecofeminist Val Plumwood when he wrote the line, “try not to think so much about the truly staggering amount of oil that it takes to make a record”. Maybe he was just poetically noting the prevalence of mind/body, reason/emotion, respect/use binaries in western culture. Either way, both his commercial success as an artist and my (heretofore non-commercial) success as a student, are dependent on the “staggering amount” of shadow places you, I, we, “try not to think about” in order to pursue business as usual.

        St. Lawrence is no exception. ”Nestled ‘neath the purple shadows of the Adirondack hills,” it is similarly dependent on shadow places, and the injustice inherent in their existence, for its own continued success. The material accouterments of a small residential college – in the middle of nowhere, no less – are considered part and parcel of the ‘northern’ environment. Of course, St. Lawrence is not alone in this perpetuation of dualistic values. As Val Plummer explains, western tradition is dependent, to some extent, on, “the dissociation of the affective place (the place of and in mind, attachment and identification, political effectiveness, family history, ancestral place) from the economic place.” Thus, St. Lawrence, as an institution of higher education; myself, as a student of the environment; and other similarly minded residents of the ‘global North,’ are almost able to excuse ourselves from indulgence in this dualism. By writing off the environmental injustices inherent in the drive to and from St. Lawrence, the transportation of garbage off of campus every week, the growth of the endowment by investment in fossil fuel companies – the list goes on – as ‘economic transactions’ we excuse ourselves from a true accounting of the cost of such privileges.

        As we begin to approach the horizon lines of resource availability, the shadows we cast in our dependency on them will begin to spread. No longer will we be able to insulate ourselves from the effects of our material consumption with economic reasoning. Thus, it is important for institutions of such privilege as St. Lawrence to take a stance, to shine a light on shadow places and use its considerable social influence not only to educate its students on their existence but to affect a change to ‘business as usual’. Having just graduated, I hope to do so in my life moving forward. But having invested so much of myself in the ‘affective place’ of St. Lawrence, I hope that the future will bring a dissolution of the dichotomy between SLU as a, “place of and in mind, attachment and identification,” of love and curiosity and creativity, and SLU as an “economic place” of ever invisible garbage trucks, imported foods, and fossil fuel dependent endowment funds. It will take a radical rethinking of the ‘western traditions’ upon which St. Lawrence was founded to affect these changes. I do, however, believe that a metaphysically grounded conception of the privilege of spending four years, “nestled ‘neath the purple shadows” of the Adirondacks and insulated from the shadows the consumption inherent in that arrangement could and should herald that change. I just hope I can be there to raise a Labatt to the occasion – although I can’t imagine it would still be priced at $1.

        Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling, Val Plumwood, 2008
        “The Scarlet and The Brown,” St. Lawrence School Song

  3. Kristin Topich says:

    Kristin Topich
    Mill Creek Park – Youngstown, OH

    1. Kristin Topich says:

      Reflection #1 : Youngstown, OH – Mill Creek Park

      The connection I have to Mill Creek stems from the summers I spent in Youngstown; my fathers’ hometown. Youngstown was a booming steel town, reaching a peak in the 1930s, until the collapse on “Black Monday” in September 1977. The city itself was built for 600,000 people, but has now lost 60% of its population – leaving a desolate area after the closing of the mills. Bruce Springsteen covers the collapse in his song “Youngstown” from his album Ghost of Tom Joad : [] It was the employment in the steel mills that brought my family to Youngstown, OH from Croatia. Mill Creek is the highlight of Youngstown. Over 4,400 acres, Mill Creek has a variety of bridges, ponds, streams, gardens, and waterfalls. The park has faced numerous issues in the last few years; dealing with sewage and employment of the park.

      1. Kristin Rochelle says:

        Mill Creek Park: potentials & added history

        On August 11th, 1915 a local Youngstown newspaper, The Vindicator, ran a two-page story of Volney Rogers’ opposition to the construction of sewers through the park. When Volney Rogers, the founder of Mill Creek Park stated:

        “It follows for these reasons that under no circumstances should sewers be located in public parks near springs, lakes, or streams, and if possible they should not be built within the park limits. At best it is bringing city conditions into public parks, and city conditions are the very things the tired city dweller wishes to avoid… as a sanitary proposition, is so abhorrent and so destructive to the highest benefits that the people are entitled to enjoy, that I am sure those who suggest this plan do not do so understandingly,” wrote Rogers (Vindy, 1).

        Youngstown pushed forward, ignoring Rogers’ wishes. It was 100 years later, in July of 2015 that the Rogers’ predictions would become real. The creek that Mill Creek Park is named for starts at a spring 14 miles south of Youngstown and gradually grows in capacity before flowing into three lakes located within the park – Lake Glacier (37-acre), Lake Cohasset (18-acre), and Lake Newport (50-acre), and eventually reaching the Mahoning River. Along the creek and the three lakes, there is a combined 14 overflow points, which discharge sewage 73.2 times annually (Vindy, 2). In 2015, this sewage runoff from heavy rain caused thousands of fish to die-off, forcing the park to close access to the lakes for a year for restoration. This overview demonstrates the lack of action that took place on a known hazard and is an interesting context which to view the idea of bioregionalism through.

        Aberley defines bioregionalism as “… a body of thought and related practice that has evolved in response to the challenge of reconnecting socially-just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems in which they are embedded” (13). It is with this definition that I suggest a number of potentials for Youngstown and Mill Creek Park to grow together in a sustainable, but economically-sense way. Foremost, integration of Youngstown State University’s classes with the park would provide benefits in hands on learning, as well as gathering samples so the E. Coli levels can be monitored and discussed within the college. Transparency is key, and students can become more involved in an important restoration process. Going further, I believe more recreational classes should be held in the park – (after necessary sanitation levels have been reached) to integrate the campus into the community on a greater level. Feeling a responsibility and ownership of the park as a student will undoubtedly benefit the parks’ future and improve the students’ skillset.

    2. Kristin Rochelle says:

      #3 – Mill Creek Park – Water

      Looking at what’s ahead for Mill Creek Park requires further discussion around the water in the park. Water is an essential element and attraction of the park, and previously mentioned sewage runoff warrants conversation about where the park currently stands. Starting with a brief overview, I will move on to discuss the three lakes within Mill Creek in the context of water quality, control, and activities around. To conclude, I’ll answer general questions about the system as a whole that tie into water standards.

      All three lakes – Glacier, Newport, and Cohasset – have been added to the park since its’ opening in 1891. Lake Glacier was created through damming Mill Creek in 1906 at the narrows before reaching the Mahoning River (Mill Creek MetroParks, 1). This 44-acre lake provides opportunities to fish and kayak. Lake Newport, the largest lake of the three, is 60-acres of open-water as well as 40-acres of wetlands. It was created in 1928 by a dam, and provides both boating and in season fishing. The Newport Wetlands can be accessed through kayak, boardwalk, and hiking; and in 2013 a renovation to the parking lot and creation of a biofiltration garden are said to reduce runoff to the lakes and Mill Creek. The smallest and oldest lake is Lake Cohasset, built in 1897. This 28-acre lake does not allow for boating or fishing. The Lilly Pond is also a popular destination in Mill Creek Park. The 3.25 acre pond attracts visitors with its’ fish and trails circling the pond.

      Currently, the park is undergoing extreme water quality issues. High levels of E. coli are affecting all water sources, and all recreational activities on the lake were shut down for a year to test (reopening in July 2016). The Mill Creek MetroPark website states the reason behind this issue: “… Combined sewer overflows (CSOs) from the City of Youngstown’s sanitary sewer system… effluent from the Boardman sewage treatment plant, suspended solids, agricultural runoff, residential fertilizer, pesticide & herbicide runoff, parking lot & street runoff and failing septic systems.” (1). Performing water quality test and continuing with the programs in place were the “next steps” for Mill Creek Park. The agenda set for water testing was to test three predetermined locations on Lake Newport (where a massive fish kill occurred) for 12 weeks, which was eventually expanded to more locations in Mill Creek Park. The conclusions they drew after the 12-week period was that non-point source pollution was very difficult to locate and control. The EPA offered to cover the cost of removing the dams, increasing the flow of the water, but the park rejected. Appropriate measures have not been stated thus far.

      With water-quality tests the class was preforming this week, it was difficult to not question why Youngstown State University, located a short distance from the park, is not taking the lead in testing and releasing information about water quality. The current state of the park would provide a valuable environmental education opportunity. I anticipate an increased collaboration between Mill Creek Park and Youngstown State University in the coming semester.

    3. Kristin Rochelle says:

      #4: Mill Creek Park [Readings: borders | Native Americans | Different narratives]

      Readings from this week helped me frame a new perspective on Mill Creek Park. Foremost, the idea of borders as discussed in “The Story of Vermont.” I have defined my ‘place’ by the precise boundaries set by others, not based on any geographic features, or my own perception of the park.

      These political borders hold weight because of the laws established inside these borders. Inside these set borders dogs must be leashed, alcohol cannot be consumed, wildlife cannot be fed, and so on. The political borders that define Mill Creek entitles the park to govern what is best for the park and control how the community can interact with that space. In theory, this extra authority will allow the park control over how clean the system inside those borders are, by what they allow inside.

      I did not intentionally choose to define my place by these state-defined borders. It has limited my research to what is directly inside those borders – instead of defining Mill Creek by its natural characteristics (e.g. geology, topography, water flow, climate, soil type, and distribution of natural communities [34]). I feel this has limited my evaluation of the bigger picture of Mill Creek. For example, where does the fact that Youngstown, as an old rust belt city, really come into the picture (with regards to pollution)? What relationship did the communities downstream and upstream of the Mahoning River have with Youngstown? And with regards to this week, who was displaced on Mill Creek during colonization – and what relationship did they hold with the creek?

      The different narratives people have of one place is an interesting dynamic, and I’ve become hyper-aware of my agenda in picking Youngstown’s Mill Creek Park this week. In not acknowledging the peoples there prior, and by selecting state-defined borders – in only choosing to cover the history from the parks opening – I erased most of its history.

      With much research, I am still unsure of narratives around Mill Creek in particular prior to European colonization. Relocation over time, revising of history, and the mass murder of aboriginal populations make it difficult to pinpoint exactly where in Northeast Ohio several peoples – e.g. Erie tribe, Iroquois tribe, and Shawnee Tribe – lived, and what their relationship with the land looked like. Mill Creek Park, and those engaging in discussion about the park, needs to recognize past histories – as there is a general lack of representation. Information on the parks’ past should be made readily available online, to allow for greater access to recognition and research into the Erie, Iroquois, Shawnee tribes.

    4. Kristin Rochelle says:

      Mill Creek Park – Final Post – #5 [Shadow Places]

      This week we discussed Val Plumwood’s notion of ‘shadow places’; how we like to view our places as self-sufficient, and don’t recognize “… places that provide our material and ecological support” (Plumwood, 139). This is rightfully true, as it is easy to slip into not questioning where the things around you are coming from, or what it took to get them there. They move to suggest viewing a place as complex network; and acknowledging a places’ relationship to others. This entails also having an environmental-justice perspective to understanding a place.

      Youngstown as a whole could be considered a shadow place; as a very overlooked city with a plethora of issues. After the steel mills closed the city was devastated and largely forgotten. Youngstown helped provided steel for the wars the US engaged in, and was shut down in the 70s – leaving middle class families who had dedicated their life to the mills without jobs. Bruce Springsteen’s song “Youngstown” perfectly encompasses the sinking of mills and loss endured by families.

      Mill Creek Park also has a share of shadow places – which are mostly recent. First, the pollution issue the park has faced in the past few years. This alone poses a threat to the surrounding environment and has not been properly dealt with. But with this, the massive layoff of long-time park employees to financially deal with this issue was a result. Mill Creek park is the good-looking part of Youngstown; Youngstown almost serving as the shadow place that supports Mill Creek Park. I make this claim for several reasons. The park is reserved for those who have the privilege of time and transportation to get there. It’s well funded, comparably speaking, rather safe, and is in many ways the highlight of the city. Attention has now been drawn to the pollution issues surrounding the park; and the uproar that followed from the employees being laid off. Most likely, this response would not have happened if it had taken place outside the park. But still with very little steps made to address the pollution issues in Mill Creek, locations downstream would be considered in the scope of Mill Creeks’ own “shadow places.”


      Plumwood, Val. “Shadow Places and the Politics of Dwelling.” Australian Humanities Review 44 (2008): 139-50.

      Springsteen, Bruce. “Youngstown.” Google Play Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2016.

  4. Coleman Ikenberry says:

    Coleman Ikenberry
    Bald Head Island

    1. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 1

      Bald Head Island

      I have been visiting Bald Head Island since I was three years old. I know the island intimately through a purely experiential understanding, however an academic perspective I do not know the island well.

      Bald Head Island is located near Southport, NC and is reached by a ferry. The island is at the very bottom of the Cape Fear River Basin and the river flows into the ocean and convergence with the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Bald Head is part of a series of barrier islands in the “cape of feare” because it is surrounded by frying pan shoals, shifting sand bars that historically caused many boat wrecks. The island itself is only 5.8 square miles though because it is a barrier island and constantly changing it is no longer an island. There is a small strip of beach connecting it to a town named Fort Fisher.

      Bald Head Island is beautiful and has a lot of diversity of habitats on the island. The four habitats are beach and dunes, maritime forest, freshwater lagoons, and a salt marsh. The island therefore is home to many different types of plants and animals, my personal favorite is the painted bunting. The island conservancy spends a lot of time monitoring the water and animals population. They are currently working on a birth control method for the huge deer population on the island, as well as an impressive sea turtle program to monitor and protect the turtles that nest on the island.

      Bald Head Island was historically used during the Revolutionary War as a fort and in the Civil War for smuggling. Currently there approximately 150 year round residents with the majority of the people coming during the spring through fall months to vacation. The predominant mode of transportation on the island is Golf Carts with the only cars being service trucks.

      Two fun facts for the island is that it has the oldest light house in North Carolina “Old Baldy” which was completed in 1817 after the original light house became inoperable because of erosion. Bald Head Island was also the filming location of Weekend at Bernie’s and The Butchers Wife, neither of which I have ever seen.

      And that’s all for now folks!

      1. Coleman Ikenberry says:

        Reflection 2

        One lens of viewing a place that I connect to is bioregionalism. Doug Aberly in Bioregionalism describes bioregionalism as a “body of thought and related practice that has evolved in response to the challenge of reconnecting socially-just human cultures in a sustainable manner to the region-scale ecosystems in which they are irrevocably embedded.” One can look at Bald Head Island on many different regional scales. I am choosing two different scales, the river basin it resides in and the island itself. Looking at a place on the scale of a river basin is important because all of the water that is used for human consumption, animal and plant, agricultural and industrial use is all shared in a river basin. Bald Head Island is the last piece of land at the bottom of the Cape Fear River Basin. The Cape Fear River Basin is the only river basin that is entirely contained within the state of North Carolina and reaches the ocean. One way of understanding the Cape Fear River Basin is looking at what is already there and the way that the land is being used. The river basin contains several cities including Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilmington. The Cape Fear River Basin also contains a lot of agricultural land and hog farms or CAFO’s.

        Bald Head Island is a part of the river basin but it is small and fairly removed and therefore could also be looked at as its own unique region with a bioregionalism lens. Bald Head Island is unique because it is considered a semi-tropical climate. Within looking at Bald Head Island bioregionally, one can also look through the lens of land use. Bald Head Island uses the land almost exclusively for recreation and conservation. Bald Head Island has historically used the land the same way for hundreds of years beginning with the Native American population. The land on the island is used for recreation and conservation meaning they have to use resources that are obtained from the mainland. They bring over all of their food and supplies on a ferry. Though one can look at Bald Head as its own little region, the island rely’s on a wider space and region to sustain the humans on the island.

    2. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 3

      One important aspect of place that we touched on this week is the idea of virtual resources and the local and global connections that those resources create. Virtual resources are things such as water that go into producing crops and other goods such as clothing that then will be shipped to many different locations. The water is considered virtual in those items because it was necessary for their production, however the water is not physically accessible anymore. This is important for a place like Bald Head Island that does not grow or produce any food or products and all of the potable water on the island comes from wells.

      USGS data shows that Brunswick county, the county that Bald Head Island is in has a per capita freshwater use of 191 gallons a day. There is no data for the virtual water consumed in any of the counties in North Carolina. An estimated amount of virtual water consumed in food of one person per day is about 3000 liters and that does not include any other resources. Bald Head has one grocery store on the island and several small clothing and gift shops all of which contain extraordinary amounts of virtual water. Essentially all the resources on the Island are brought there externally. All of the building materials for the new houses and all of the materials such as kitchenware, beds, tables, couches, and beach equipment are shipped to the island from elsewhere.

      If you are looking at Bald Head Island as a place and evaluating what is there as part of that place then it suddenly becomes much larger and more connected because of all of the materials that come from other places. There are many different items that come from all over the world, some close to the Island and others that are imported from different countries. There are plastic shovels that come from China, coffee grown in Costa Rica, and pork from Smithfield foods in North Carolina. The idea that you are what you eat can translate to a place in that; a place is what it contains.

      I have never thought about a place that is close to my heart in these terms, however to really know and understand a place I think it is important to know where the materials and goods in a place come from. It is a much deeper and more abstract level of understanding than simply knowing and experiencing the surface area and the demographics of a place.

    3. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 4

      So far I have attempted to help those reading understand Bald Head Island through a view, brief, lenses such looking at the ecology, geology, socio-economic make-up, and virtual items such as water and how they create a larger more global connection for the island. One way of understanding place that makes the most sense to me is to go and physically experience a place and learn through sight and stories, having a mental picture of the place to help orient oneself. During class this week we discussed understanding place based on stories of indigenous people, there are no stories of indigenous people on Bald Head Island. On the Island, they do offer historical tours that go into the history of the island including stories of the pirates that inhabited the island and the ghosts that supposedly still roam the island.

      One story is of a woman name Theodosia. In 1812 Theodosia set out to sail from South Carolina to New York to see her father, Joseph Alston, the third vice president of the United States. On her voyage her ship, the patriot, now one of the names of one of the ferry’s that takes people to the island, was taken over by pirates. After this, the details become unclear howeve, there have been many sightings of Theodosia on Bald Head Island since this time. People claim to see a forlorn woman with dark red hair in a flowing dress who seems to be searching for something or someway off the Island. There is an inn on the Island called Theodosia’s for her memory and is discussed on the ghost tours of the Island.

      Theodosia was a real woman who for all we know did in fact die on Bald Head Island, if her ghost still remains on the Island is up for debate. No matter if there are real ghosts roaming around, these stories are based in fact and keep the history of these people and places alive. Ghost stories allow us to remember these places had a past, with real people and things that had their own stories and beliefs. It reminds us that there are multiple realities, there is a past, present, and future to all places that contribute to what that place is and means.

    4. Coleman Ikenberry says:

      Reflection 5

      Bald Head Island is a wonderful place to visit, the beaches are open and never crowded, it is incredibly safe, and I never have any fear of danger or of theft. This place is designed to focus the visitor to the beauty and tranquility of the island, however there are hidden and unpleasant things that go into making the island the beautiful retreat that it is know as.

      Shadow places are areas of our world that are incredibly necessary because of the resources they produce, however they are not beautiful and are often hidden. An example of a shadow place is Duplin County in North Carolina. Duplin County is home to one of the largest hog farming industries in the world, the number of hogs far outnumber the people. This place provides an enormous amount of well-priced pork products that are sold around the world, one of those places being the grocery store at Bald Head Island. Simply looking at the food industry Bald Head Island is a very dark place. The consumers of food and products on the island are rich, mostly older, white folks with incredible amounts of privilege while those that produce all of the food and supplies do not have the means or time to spend time vacationing on Bald Head Island. The people providing for the island and allowing the Island to function seamlessly are predominately factory farmers and sweat shop workers.

      Another aspect of the Island that casts a shadow are the workers on the island. The homes on the island are predominately large second homes or rentals for vacationers. There is almost no worker housing and the only worker housing on the island is either, dorm style housing or one-room homes. Workers mostly live on the mainland where the cost of living is significantly lower. The people that work on the Island allow for visitors to leave their worries on the mainland, but what about the cares and worries of the workers. It is important to remember their place and all that they go through to create the image of perfection on the Island.

      Bald Head Island is one of the nicest, most beautiful places I get to travel to on a regular basis but beneath this serene façade, there are a lot of disturbing aspects to the foundation of this place. At first glance one sees a beautiful nature conservancy to escape the trials and tribulations of the ‘real’ world but at a second, closer look this place still contains all of the hardships and pains of the real world, concealed as food and goods services.

  5. Chelsea Colby says:

    Chelsea Colby
    Meredith, New Hampshire

    1. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #1

      I grew up in the small town of Meredith, New Hampshire nestled in the heart of the Lakes Region. Meredith was founded in 1748 and grew as people abandoned hilltop agriculture in favor of waterways. The town is 54 square miles in area, 14 square miles of which is water, including five lakes: Lake Winnipesaukee, Lake Waukewan, Lake Winnisquam, Pemigewasset Lake and Wickwas Lake.

      Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the state of New Hampshire covering 72 square miles. Approximately 15,000 years ago a glacier a mile thick stood over New Hampshire and Lake Winnipesaukee was formed by glacial retreat as quartz diorite, the primary rock of the Lake Winnipesaukee basin, was carved out.

      As the town popped up along the water many sawmills and gristmills emerged defining the development of the roadways and railway through the area. Today the population of Meredith is approximately 6,000 permanent residents with the population more than doubling in size during the summer months as lake-front summer property owners and tourists swarm to the area. This being the case, the primary industry now surrounds the tourism, restaurant and hospitality sectors.

      The lake is the heart of the town and hosts many of the profitable events that bolster the towns economy, even during the off season. When the lake freezes over spectators and participants alike trek out on the sparkling surface for the annual Hockey Tournament as well as the Rotary Fishing Derby.

      Meredith also hosts a diverse array of wildlife. The lake is home to a variety of freshwater fish, water snakes, turtles and ducks. Loon preservation is a priority on Lake Winnipesaukee. Raccoon, skunk and white tailed deer, among other critters, can be found in many of the forested areas of Meredith. Protected forest areas in the town include Chemung State Forest and Hermit Woods Town Forest.

      The town planning board of Meredith is dedicated to keeping the area clean and beautiful. This is demonstrated in the color coordination of many of the local businesses in town with their white facades and green roofs as well as the landscaping of the pink annuals on every corner. Meredith has added a sculpture walk to encourage everyone to wander around and take in the beauty, both built and natural. I am grateful for this commitment Meredith has to maintaining the beauty of the area as I find it very easy to dive in to the experiences with my sense in these moments, while also not losing sight of the rich past of the area that is celebrated in the historical society and the traditions of the town. Adding to my layers of awareness an understanding of the geologic development of this area has put in to perspective the multiple time scales at work and the multiple lenses required to more deeply understand a place.

    2. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #2

      The town of Meredith congregates largely around the Meredith Bay area of Lake Winnipesaukee. Much of the land in the town is dedicated to selling products and services that focus, as Foley does, on what the natural environment is doing for the humans of the area. In this case the lake offers a space for recreation; boating, swimming, and stand-up paddle boarding to name a few popular activities. Along the shore there is a rental shop for aquatic sports, beaches, boat launches, docks and a ride around the lake is available on the Mount Washington. The lake also offers a beautiful view that people wish to consume along with their meals at restaurants along the lake. The hotels are built with a view of this key feature in mind.

      The adjacent Lake Waukewan is the town’s water source and is considered valuable to humans for the provisions it offers. In the 1800s these two lakes were connected with the water from Lake Waukewan flowing through a canal under the Main Street of Meredith in to Lake Winnipesaukee. In this way Lake Waukewan transports water to the people of the town directly but also to support the economy and recreation of the area. In an anthropocentric manner the lakes are valued for the uses they have to humans.

      However, I believe that the lake also has eco-centric value in its own existence; value beyond the ecosystem services it provides for the residents of and visitors to Meredith, New Hampshire. This argument can be made on the grounds that we believe humans as part of this environment are significant and the ever more complex and beautiful natural environment must too have value in its own right.

      I believe that this sense of value can be cultivated by employing bioregional thinking for the focus therein is on the natural environment and its health. The focus turns away from the man-made politically defined boundaries and instead focuses on rethinking the place of humans in nature, respecting the natural boundaries that are formed and working within them. Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake is the state of New Hampshire and as such the boundaries of eight distinct towns divide it. Each community uses the shoreline for its own distinct purposes but as a collective resource I feel that we need to use bioregional thinking to reconsider the ways in which we divide Lake Winnipesaukee. The land use of each town directly impacts all others therefore communication and collective action should be on a larger scale. I believe that moving up to the level of the Lakes Region, which encompasses the whole of Lake Winnipesaukee within one entity, may provide a more effective scale on which to consider land use that cares for both the human use and natural environment.

    3. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #3

      In Meredith, New Hampshire we are, it seems, constantly surrounded by an abundance of water in the lakes and rivers. Average rainfall in the town is 44 inches per year and average snowfall is 78.8 inches per year, both higher than the United States average (“Meredith, New Hampshire Climate.”). The town is able to provide clean water from Lake Waukewan and many residents have access to safe well water. We are fortunate in this regard, however, I think it provides the illusion that access to water is not a pressing global problem.

      Worldwide a fraction of the water-use is dedicated to domestic usage and water for industrial products but the largest portion of our water usage is largely invisible, hidden in food production (“Virtual Water.”). In Meredith, New Hampshire the main source of local agricultural production is Moulton Farms. As a small business Moulton Farms employs many locals and is family-orientated. Moulton Farms owns swaths of land throughout the town and frequently has such successful growing seasons that they are able to sell produce at the farm, in local grocery stores and they are able to offer CSA shares. This means that much of the water that goes in to local agriculture stays within the town system. However, a minimal amount of the town’s land use and local economy is dedicated to agriculture therefore a large number of imports are required to meet demands for food.

      The problem I see with this model is that Meredith is an area that is not facing issues of water scarcity and for parts of the world experiencing severe drought and water scarcity it has been proposed that they should import to meet the demand for food and achieve water security. I believe that there is enough accessible water in Meredith that theoretically the community could turn to a thriving small-scale agricultural system, given the proper land conditions. If the local natural resources were used efficiently and effectively then the community may be able to meet its own demand for food while exporting those products that are in abundance to areas in need of water security. This change would not be an easy one given the current water use in Meredith surrounds recreation which is an integral part of the present economy of the town so such a change would require a system shift.


      Kumar (2005). Virtual Water in Global Food and Water Policy Making

      “Meredith, New Hampshire Climate.” Sperling’s Best Places. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

      “Virtual Water.” – Discover How Much WATER We EAT Everyday. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

    4. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #4

      The woodland chief Ahanton lived along the northern shore of the big lake with his beautiful daughter Ellacoya. Many warriors wished to marry Ellacoya but all were rejected until one day the warrior Kona, from a southern rival tribe, arrived in his canoe from across the big lake having heard the legend of Ellacoya’s beauty.

      Ahanton was away when Kona arrived so Kona walked in to the village wearing an eagle-feathered headdress in order that all could identify him as the chief of an enemy tribe. This bravery made Kona attractive to Ellacoya and soon the two fell in love. When Ahanton returned he was angered upon seeing his enemy and rushed at him with a tomahawk. Ellacoya blocked her father begging that he spare the life of her lover. Chief Ananton was impressed by the bravery of the couple and consented to their marriage.

      Shortly after a group of bark canoes traveled across the lake from the north. The tribe escorted the new couple to the mid-point of the lake, the Broads, and then watched as the new bride and groom continued on towards Kona’s tribe. Threatening storm clouds grew over the couple and suddenly a single ray of light illuminated their canoe. Seeing this, Chief Ahanton announced that because of this good omen the waters would now be called Winnipesaukee since a great spirit had smiled down upon his daughter’s marriage.

      Today many of the lakes, rivers and towns in the Lakes Region carry with them the names from the Abenaki language. The Weirs was a gathering site for it was a “place of good fishing”. Lake Winona is named for a Native American princess that understood bird voices. The Native American figures and heritage are present in this place and can be honored through an understanding of the stories such names hold.


      Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee’s Native American Roots. (n.d.). Retrieved from

    5. Chelsea Colby says:

      Reflection #5

      Often when traveling to Meredith, New Hampshire one focuses on those aspects of place that are loved and deemed beautiful. Shadow places are those that produce for or are affected by consumer culture and yet we ignore them or do not know they exist. In the midst of the grandeur of the lakes and mountains, which people travel from miles around to experience, we forget who and what make it possible for us to enjoy these spaces.

      Meredith is a town whose economy is built on tourism. The hospitality industry depends upon the money of people coming from out of town to stay in the hotels, drink at the bars, eat in the restaurants and rent crafts to play on the lakes. The hospitality industry also depends upon the hardworking individuals who cook and serve the food and drinks, clean the hotel rooms and rent out the recreation equipment.

      The income disparity is Meredith is quite stark. Lining the lake there are the hotels and many large, mansion-like homes that are owned by Massachusetts residents who use them as summer vacation homes. These people spend money at the local businesses during their stays “up north”. Yet travel north through the lights in downtown Meredith and you will enter a rundown part of town with trailer parks and low income housing. Many of these people are employed by the local hospitality businesses.

      There is a privilege in having the ability to take a vacation, one that requires money and job stability that many of the people working the jobs that make a vacation enjoyable will never know. Hourly wage workers are often unable to take time off because, unlike some jobs with benefits such as paid time off, there is no pay check if the time is not worked. If someone is living paycheck to paycheck just to make ends meet, then taking time off would not even cross their mind in the struggle to keep food on the table.

      When traveling to a new place it is of course important to appreciate the natural beauty, the unique culture and delicious food but consider also all of the people who put their hard work into making your vacation experience what it is. Show your gratitude and appreciation for those hardworking people. Places like Meredith do rely on tourists to continue to come visit and enjoy the area but such interactions should be based on the responsibility principle in which the justice criterion is applied so that in every exchange one or both places are made better and no place worse.

  6. Gabe Wexler says:

    Gabe Wexler
    Telluride, Colorado

    1. Gabe Wexler says:

      Telluride sits toward the end of a box canyon, nestled on all sides by either the slopes or the beckonings of the jagged San Juan Mountains. Along with the rest of the Rocky Mountains, the San Juans formed in the Laramide orogeny somewhere within the span of 80 to 35 million years ago. Oceanic plates slid under what was then the western edge of what is now the North American continent, and the mountain-building potential of that shallow-angled subduction manifested far inland. Several periods of glaciation, up to about 15,000 years ago, carved valleys into the masses of rock, revealing much older granite and gneiss in the southern Rockies. This was the contribution of the 300-million-year-old Ancestral Rocky Mountains that had previously risen and crumbled.

      Bridal Veil Falls, at the eastern end of the canyon, feeds the San Miguel River that runs alongside town, a tributary of the Dolores River, a tributary of the Colorado. It’s weird to think that the snowmelt in Telluride is drowning Glen Canyon, but that’s a story for another place. There are abundant trees around town, at 8,750 feet, in contrast to the more low-lying and varied plantlife of the abutting mountains that reach over 14,000 feet. A meadow of orange and purple on grey, say, gives way to a bright blue lake venerated by tall shrubs, with faces of absolutely red cliffs staring from the distance. There are so many breathing worlds, like beads on a string, on the trails that snake off in every direction towards the sky.

      We humans want to learn from nature. Still, the black bears have learned how to open your unlocked door and eat your Ben & Jerry’s. Amen.

      Before that, though, there were the Ute people, long-time inhabitants of the Southwest, now largely living on reservations. Encroaching white authorities took the San Juan area from them by deception in 1873, and the miners flooded in. The town of Columbia was established in 1878, soon to be renamed after an ion of Tellurium, element 52, found on gold ore. The population, an indicator of the American Dream, peaked around 5,000 and, with the collapse of the rush in advance of World War One, dropped precipitously.

      The Ames Hydroelectric Plant started supplying power to mines in 1891, making it the first commercial alternating current system for industrial use, and one of the first AC hydro plants built. I’ve been; it’s still in operation. Today there’s a community solar installation just down the valley, all ways of mining natural resources.

      The Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1972, bringing the adventurers and hippies. The town of Mountain Village (think about that for a second) sprung up in ’95, 13 minutes away by gondola. It’s a Swiss Alpine flavored fiction of carefully-placed supersized chateaus and rustic luxury hotels, summed up in its very own bitingly funny mockumentary. The ski area between the two linked municipalities attracts more than 475,000 visitors every winter, and counting. That’s over 200 times the population of Telluride.

      What’s left of the gold rush are the heavy metals swirling in tailings ponds next to the river. Opaque history in open reservoirs. Perfect turquoise surreality. Unlike these, though, my memories aren’t toxic. They were made during camp, in vans headed to the haunts of disappeared poets, or in the living room where my extended family celebrated winter holidays. They live in my ski tracks and alongside the trails I’ve walked in wonder and awe, held in tree trunks and open flowers. They rise, pointing towards the unknown.

    2. Gabe Wexler says:

      [The Bear Creek trail begins at the south end of Pine Street. Among the most accessible and popular hiking trails in the valley, it provides a window into the dominant past and present land uses: summer and winter recreation, nature preserve, and mineral extraction.]


      In late-mid summer
      the ski instructor I’m hiking with
      does not like to be
      greeted by
      on the