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  • Last modified 101 days ago (March 7, 2019)

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Coping with cold, hard facts

One of the truer adages of this world is that you never know how much you miss something until it’s gone.

That might be overly obvious to anyone waking up on a frigid morning after one of two planned power outages in Marion County.

But it applies equally to crews who created the outages. Delaying needed system updates from January until March, when weather normally is more moderate, was supposed to lessen the burden. They — and we — now know only too well how much we miss normal spring weather in a climate that seems increasingly extreme.

Come Sunday, early risers will miss the morning sun as we spring ahead for Daylight Saving Time. Simultaneously, most of us will be comforted by the return of after-work daylight we have been missing since November when time fell back.

Particularly in rural areas, prone to downed lines, power may not be as taken for granted as it is in urban areas, but it’s still one of many things we don’t miss until it’s gone.

Some regard squirrels as pests. Others take great joy in their backyard antics. Should they suddenly disappear, as sometimes happens when a predator enters a yard, they are missed by all.

So, too, is the ease with which those of advancing years provide food for the backyard entertainers during inclement weather.

Likewise missed are the trees these furry dancers frolic in. Often felled in the name of protecting the lines that provide overly interruptible power, trees that have stood the test of time deserve more than just stump removal when they finally succumb.

As much as our communities talk about beautification and renewal, the single most important thing we as residents can do is to ensure that the total number of trees in our community increases rather than declines.

In addition to worrying about long-term stability of power systems and new streetlights on Main St., we need to devote time and effort to planting at least one new tree for every tree lost. Of all the laws local government could pass, a requirement that all trees be replaced — and financial assistance for doing so along public rights of way — would be among the best laws a city could enact.

Trees are one of the key ingredients in making our communities the welcoming homes that they are. Yes, they pose problems for electric lines, but careful planting can mitigate this, and any environmentalist will tell you trees help minimize the chances of extreme weather and provide welcome stages for all those hated/beloved squirrels to perform on.

Committing ourselves to ensuring our communities’ comfort and beauty for future generations by replacing felled trees is a goal we’ve been touting for years. We’ll keep doing so in Quixotic fashion because our main concern is preserving the small-town values that helped shape our lives. We never want to wake up to find them suddenly missing.

That’s why we’re also doing something this week that’s almost unprecedented in a business that also involves trees — trees that are harvested as crops to provide the newsprint you’re now holding in your hands.

While many newspapers, especially those owned by ever-growing corporations based in places other than the communities they serve, continue to cut their staffs and reduce both the quality and quantity of news coverage they provide to those communities, we’re actually expanding our staff.

This week, Mindy Kepfield, a veteran journalist who formerly worked at the Hutchinson News and until recently was managing editor of the McPherson Sentinel, is joining us to help sharpen our writing and improve our page designs.

This will also allow her fellow news editor, Sheila Kelley, to spend a bit more time helping local businesses come up with promotional campaigns that will increase their sales.

Newspaper owners who don’t really care about the communities they serve are busy cutting their staffs so they can increase profits they deposit in out-of-town banks. Maybe what we are doing truly is Quixotic, but we don’t want to do as others do and try to bleed dry whatever community they happen to be located in, then fold up shop and move on.

Never knowing how much you miss something until it’s gone applies not just to power and daylight and squirrels and trees. It applies to newspapers, too.

These are trying times financially for all media except giant computerized leeches that operate online and mobile services that secretly profit off your personal information.

Investing in additional staff at a time like this may seem foolhardy to penny-pinching publishers. But investing in providing a better product for a community we love isn’t a decision of the head. It’s a decision of the heart — just like deciding to replace felled trees. It’s about making sure the community we love never wakes up to find out how much it misses something it may have taken for granted.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified March 7, 2019

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