By Joshua Galligan and Sarah Dickerson
Two independent experts, for two different reasons, have shown the world the magic of Readington.
One with government funding and the other philanthropic. That’s the story that Pennsylvania state Senator Joseph Vitale wants the world to know. Just weeks after Senator Vitale came to Readington from Philadelphia with visions of growth on his mind, Independent Study teacher of English Ruth O’Neill put a stop to his development plans for the township. She showed the delegation three maps of the township and one of the state that painted a clear picture: the most pristine, pristine part of Readington was in one of the most endangered natural habitats in the state. Less than five percent of Readington is a habitat known as Readington Valley as opposed to 25 percent for state funding and most municipalities in the state.
Despite his expressions of support for her work, as Senator Vitale and the delegation left Readington on a ferry to Atlantic City the next day, Senator Vitale refused to ask her to continue his county funded work. Senator Vitale stopped what he was doing, walked to a red light and drove off. As Senator O’Neill says, “[Senator Vitale] had an agenda and it was to ride in my back window. It was typical. “
While Senator Vitale may regret his decision, Ms. O’Neill’s work is far from over. She has since taken up her story with the Donegal Media Center and written a Facebook community page where she is sharing her story. She is also spearheading the “Save Readington Valley” campaign to protect the valley from a 13,000-acre housing development proposed by developer Robert Troy.
I remember Ms. O’Neill as a teacher last year. She taught classes full of my high school classmates, but she didn’t get a chance to follow them into the real world. Neither did her two neighbors, Colleen and Dennis. They’re also going to college, Ms. O’Neill and Ms. Colleen, but first they will spend the next three years teaching in Readington.
The person that I most respect for Ms. O’Neill’s work, Ms. Colleen, is the person who had a different take on Readington. “Thank God.” People have contacted me and asked me why they feel bad about Ms. Colleen’s negative portrayal of Readington. Actually, Ms. Colleen has already turned her book about Readington Valley into a chapter in her book. When I was playing the book back to Ms. Colleen, she said her “thoroughly researched” pages about Readington Valley would be the reason she would be able to leave town in five years.
Thank God for Ms. Colleen.
We can do whatever we want to with Readington Valley. We have the money to do whatever we want, but sometimes the right answer is the right answer. As more signs of Readington’s growth are built, however, Senator Vitale will stay silent in the face of a much more beautiful opportunity for Readington than himself – his fellow elected officials. Watch our neighbours, Ms. Colleen and Ms. O’Neill, protect Readington Valley from development while he sits by.
Joshua Galligan and Sarah Dickerson graduated from New Jersey State University last spring and are respectively living in New York City and Philadelphia. They are editors for Readington Today.
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published on September 15, 2015 in Readington Today.