The meeting had been in the works for several weeks. The time and date changed a few times because Mr. Gregg is a busy man. Yesterday, at long last, a group of us met with gubernatorial candidate John R Gregg for a walk in the woods.
We met at 9:00 a.m. in Beanblossom under threatening skies and occasional drizzle. A half dozen of us stood in the parking lot and waited for the guest of honor. We were excited by this opportunity and our conversation was full of hope and curiosity. Within a few minutes, an unassuming fellow with a big smile pulled into the parking lot, parked his car and walked over to us. He asked if we were waiting for someone, and I smiled in response and said; “I think we’re waiting for you.”
Even though we all knew who he was, Mr. Gregg introduced himself, and in short order he memorized all of our names. He was friendly and easy going, and I instantly liked this fellow. After we organized our caravan and decided on the route, we drove over to Dubois Ridge road to take a look at a patricianly ugly section of clear-cut state forest land.
When we arrived, we met a few others who were waiting for us, and some of the folks changed their shoes in preparation for an extremely muddy hike. I was impressed that Mr. Gregg arrived properly dressed. He’s clearly a man who knows his way around the great outdoors. I was also impressed that he was willing to take this hike in the pouring down rain, if need be.
The sky was black as we set off on what can only be described as a rugged hike. The path we chose was an old logging road that’s rutted and strewn with tangled smaller trees that were collateral damage from the recent logging that took place there. As a bunch of older folks, we took our time as we picked our way along. While we were hiking, Mr. Gregg engaged each of us in conversation and it was clear that he’s fully informed on the issue, and that he has a plan of action.
When we arrived at the clear-cut the sight of it caused all of us to pause.
Before us stood several acres of deeply rutted wasteland, devoid of trees, and bleeding topsoil into the surrounding area. As we stood ankle deep in mud, we exchanged ideas and perspectives on the new forest plan and what might be done to stop it.
I asked Mr. Gregg what if any recreational activities could take place there, and he acknowledged that there were none, not even hunting. We pointed out that what we were looking at represents the fate of the entire state forest. I told him I hope that a hundred years from now, areas like this will become museums of bad management, and stand as a reminder of the constant vigilance it takes to preserve a forest in perpetuity.
We asked for and received a firm commitment that if he’s elected Governor he will end the current forest management plan, and return the preservation areas to their former status. An executive order created the new forest plan, and if he’s elected Governor, Mr. Gregg could end it with the stroke of a pen.
We quibbled over whether he would make this a central campaign issue. It will definitely be in his plan statements. The question for him is whether this issue is important enough to most Hoosiers to justify spending his limited campaign dollars to advertise it. Ultimately he will be the judge of that.
After years of struggle, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Those of us who want to do something to save the forest now have a clear option. We need to elect new leadership in Indiana, and I sincerely believe we can do it.