My White River

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By: Rob Versprille

A farm family watches the weather all year long, but no more closely than in the spring.  A rainy spring can mean delayed planting, and that can mean some pretty long days are ahead for us once the fields are dry enough to work.

We can see the White River from our back deck. It sits just a few hundred feet from our house. Right now, it’s a swollen and muddy rush of water overflowing its banks after a couple days of constant rain.

In the summer, once those same fields are planted and the growing season is well under way, that rushing river slows significantly. That’s when the river fills with thousands of kayaks, canoes and float tubes carrying happy folks enjoying a warm summer day. From across the barn lot we can hear their laughter.

We don’t mind sharing “our backyard river” with these folks. Generations of our family have grown up on this river and have enjoyed its beauty as well. I’ve swum and fished in the river as a teenager, as has my son and his friends.

We understand that this is a shared asset. Our farmland next to the river, though, feels a little different.

Our families have years of stories about finding folks who have wandered up from the river and into our fields during harvest, putting themselves and the farmer in jeopardy as the combines churn through the acreage.

Another family member found someone on his front porch, charging his cell phone. Others found visitors helping themselves to corn from the fields. (A side note to that one, won’t they be surprised to find it’s not really good eating corn!)

These fields that have been farmed by generations of our family are not to share, other than the food we produce from them. This is our backyard, and yes, maybe more expansive than most, our rights and expectations of privacy should not be diminished. They should mirror the peace and solitude that each of us expect as we relax in our own spaces.

We try to be good stewards of the river and have adjusted many of our farming practices over the years to reduce erosion and chemical run-off. We know what we do matters.

We’ve watched with interest the evolution of the White River Vision Plan and applaud that others also now care enough about this river to protect it for the future. We join our urban and suburban landowners to the south of us in paying close attention to what the plan includes.

We especially appreciate White River Vision Plan Principle 9: Balance community sentiments with long-term aspirations that honor ownership and use-patterns along the river.

This has to be a team effort. We need to respect each other for this plan to work for the good of the river as well as the people that value and use that river.

We look forward to working together in the future for a shared vision of the White River.

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