Leadership expert and mentor, John C. Maxwell, says that if we want to create a legacy, we first need to live it.
As I consider what kind of planet-related legacy I will leave behind when I'm gone from this life, I ponder John's quote. Years ago, thoughts about my final will and trust would have dominated my thinking if you had asked me about my legacy. But now, I think more about how I influence the lives of others and how I serve a greater good during my life.
We had opportunities during my eight years of elected public office as County Executive of Portage County, Wisconsin, to do several "into perpetuity" projects. One involved collaborating to create a new 270-acre silent sports park in partnership with landowners who wanted to preserve a place they had loved. State and local resources also helped to make it happen. The photo accompanying this blog shows the park, Steinhaugen Recreational Area, on its day of dedication in 2016. People for generations to come will benefit from the Olson Family's vision and our county's leadership on the project.
Steinhaugen Recreational Area is a gift to our planet as much as it is a gift to people. It is of high ecological value and has scientific value as a long-time research site for our local university. Steinhaugen is also a geologically rich area with land forms left behind when the mile-high glaciers receded some 10,000 years ago. This park gives us a chance to live a healthier life while we enjoy Wisconsin's four seasons on winding trails with our family and friends. From an economic standpoint, Steinhaugen woodlands and wetlands protect the quality of our drinking water, but these kinds of investments also give our county an edge in attracting and retaining young workers who seek to live and work in places where diverse outdoor recreational experiences are easily accessible to them.
Every day, places like Steinhaugen are disappearing forever from our planet. Every day, people in leadership positions in our local, state, and federal government are asking, "Don't we have enough parks?" Every day, some of our leaders are turning their backs on, divesting, and/or authorizing destruction of existing parks and other ecologically, geologically, and/or culturally significant wild places in favor of short term gains.
What kind of legacy are you living? What kinds of legacies are you supporting in our world? Will they help future generations have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink?