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Gated Communities & Defensible Space

crossroads at planned communityWe stopped at the remains of a small artillery fort on the Petersburg battlefield.   These days it is located in the middle of a neat planned community.  As you see in the nearby picture, they don’t have much imagination when it comes to naming streets.  We lived in a nice community in Londonderry, NH.  It was built around a man-made lake and had a lot of green space snaking through.  These were not gated communities, but they are limited access.

I have mixed feelings about gated communities.   Their closed characteristics vaguely offend my egalitarian impulses. I also don’t like the basic layout of the gated communities I have seen.   They are not conducive to walking.  They tend not to have shops or attractions you get to w/o driving a car. 

On the other hand, there are ample recreational opportunities.   Most of these places come with clubhouses and pools and running trails are often usually well laid out. The ones near natural areas tend to have hiking trails connected with the living areas. 

They are also reasonably secure.   The gates keep out troublesome people.  That sounds like a terrible thing to say, but most people really don’t want to open themselves up to all sorts of aberrant behaviors.  A city neighborhood no longer provides “defensible space.”  Everybody has the “right” to come around.   This is a problem.

I admit it.  I don’t like lots of street people around.   For one thing, they compete with me for places to lie around.  I like to run and at the end of a run, or just in the middle of a walk, I like to lie on the grass or on a bench in the sun, look at the clouds and/or take a nap.  This is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – unless you have lots of boozers or street people more or less permanently occupying the prime real estate.  They make hanging around a bad practice.   I suppose my specific habits are a little peculiar, but I think most people just don’t want to be bothered by weirdoes.   Beyond that, I don’t want my eccentric habits to be lumped in with theirs. 

Moon over natural area in Marana, Az 

We have be admonished by a generation of after school specials and public service announcements to be accepting of everybody.  This is BS.   A community – any community – is inclusive of members and exclusive to others.   Members must observe some basic rules of behavior and contribute in some way to the community.  We have obligations to our fellow human beings, but these obligations are not open-ended.  We are under no obligation to accept everyone on THEIR terms.  

Williamsburg VA 

That is why we need defensible social space and we need defensible physical space, places where we feel comfortable and secure.   When the greater society cannot or will not provide or even allow such space, people seek it in the form of gated communities.

Diorama of Indian village on the site of Montgomery, Alabama 

If you cannot defend your work and your community, you will build nothing.  That is the whole basis of civilization.  Even if it offends the romantic in us, property, compassion and civilization clearly go together. 

You cannot be generous until you have something of your own to give.  When the kids were little, we didn’t force them to share everything.  After they felt secure in their own stuff, they became generous on their own.   This applies to larger communities too.     


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