PLENTY SUMMER 2020 | Page 46

voices of the reserve The Other Dimension of the Ag Reserve By The fair Access committee Those of us who live in the Ag that do not comply with the Americans Reserve in western Montgomery County have a special inner roofing. The western county with Disabilities Act to asbestos in the affinity for its beauty, its environmental benefits, and the economic getting to needed medical care is a ten has only two doctors and for many, contributions of its farms. It would not to fifteen-mile one-way trip. Almost exist were it not for laws enacted by all county residents have nearby access to community and senior centers farsighted county leaders prohibiting investment in large-scale development and in many areas clinics or wellness and facilities in the Reserve. centers, but not those who live in the Preventing private and public Ag Reserve. investment in actual buildings should Not only are people suffering from not mean the county fails to invest in the lack of county services and investments, the Ag Reserve is under stress the people who live in the Ag Reserve. Until the recent vote to fund the long as repeated studies have shown. As overdue rebuilding of Poolesville High one recent study noted, since the turn School, the lack of county investment of the century, pressure for residential development in the Reserve has in Western County residents has been startling, both in the short and long term. Too often, the Reserve is thought of in terms of The Fair Access simply open and pristine lands, divorced from Committee for the the people and businesses who are located here. western county was established to ensure the needs of increased. A successful agricultural western county residents in the Ag sector helps ensure that farmers won’t Reserve are treated on par with those be forced to succumb to the pressures in the rest of the county. Through of selling their farmsteads. its work, the committee has demonstrated that despite promises made and social, as well as environmental The Ag Reserve has an economic when the Reserve was established, the and land preservation dimension. county has for many years ignored the Without a strong agricultural sector, need for investments in our area in a backed by strong local economies and new high school and in the kinds of healthy communities, the stresses on facilities and services that are available the continued existence of the Reserve to most other residents in the county, are made much worse. The Ag Reserve resulting in a “services desert”. thrives, in part, because of those who Poolesville High School, the core work and live here and the communities that call it home. of which is nearing 70 years old, has numerous problems from bathrooms The Fair Access Committee has been working for two years to change the way county leaders view the Ag Reserve and get them to pay attention to the needs of those who live in it. While studies are done from time to time explaining the stresses on the Reserve, it can be too easy to think it is doing just fine, especially given the higher visibility of more urbanized areas of the county. Too often, the Reserve is thought of in terms of simply open and pristine lands, divorced from the people and businesses who are located here. Despite these challenges, we have been heartened by the response of county leaders to the Committee’s advocacy. The county council just approved the first tranche of funding to replace our high school. Our concerns about the lack of medical services and services for seniors and the broader community which are available in most of the county are being taken more seriously. Much more work needs to be done and our experience in the past convinces us that letting up is not an option. Our effort to strengthen and support the economies, communities and people who live in the Ag Reserve is another important chapter in maintaining it for generations to come. The Fair Access Committee is comprised of residents representing the interests of students and parents, senior citizens, farmers, and non-profit organizations in support of a much-needed new Poolesville High School, collocated with health and public safety services. Fair Access serves to engage Montgomery County and state elected representatives to promote fair access to facilities and services provided elsewhere in the County. For more information on Fair Access for Western Montgomery County, visit 46 plenty I Summer growing 2020