Over the years I have made disparaging comments about wealthy people. If I recall, I called some of them 'rich weasels.' Repeatedly. I've even been annoyed by the 'benevolent rich weasels' who try to assuage their consciences by making large donations to their favorite environmental group while simultaneously building obscenely extravagant, absurdly consumptive dwellings for themselves, hoping for recognition in Architectural Digest and Sierra magazine. And considering the compromised, money-hungry attitude of most enviro groups these days, such dual recognition is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Then along comes Jennifer Speers.
I've never met this woman, but I will, right here, right now, get down on my knees and grovel for forgiveness. I will lash myself with wet leather straps. I will allow you to bury me in sand, pour maple syrup on my head, and cover me with fire ants. I'm sorry.
Here is what Jennifer Speers did. First she bought Proudfoot Bend Ranch, about 30 miles east of Moab, Utah, to assure that its cow pastures and open space would never be condominiumized. That was good enough, but she didn't stop there. And this is where we enter the realm of the unheard of.
Adjacent to the bridge itself is (was) the Dewey Bridge subdivision. A developer bought the river frontage land several years ago, put in a road, and carved up the acreage into expensive lots. Then he built a $600,000 home on the banks of the Colorado River (just across from a public campground) to, I would guess, prime the real estate pump. But nobody was interested. The 'development' languished for the past few years, until Jennifer Speers came along. She bought all the lots -- the whole damn subdivision -- and then . . .
She tore down the house.
Ms. Speers sent in contractors to salvage doors, windows, the huge wooden beams -- anything that could be recycled. Then she had a bulldozer knock the adobe walls down and clear away debris. There is not even a hint that a monstrous, out-of-place mansion ever existed.
I hope that Jennifer Speers becomes a role model for other wealthy people. Even if she owns large homes elsewhere, this is precedent-setting. If all rich people would tear down just one of their mansions, I would sing their praises as well.
And to Ms. Speers, even though by all rights you could pick up the check, if I can ever buy you dinner, it's on me.
Reprinted from Canyon Country Zephyr (April/May 2004), a Moab, Utah-based bimonthly newspaper that's been nominated twice for an Utne Independent Press Award for best local/regional coverage and is infused with the muckraking spirit of editor/publisher Jim Stiles (its motto: 'All the news that causes fits'). Subscriptions: $15/yr. (6 issues) from Box 327, Moab, UT 84532; www.canyoncountryzephyr.com