In the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, just as James Stewart’s character becomes despondent over a series of reverses in his life, an angel appears to show him an alternate reality – what the life of his small community might have been had he never been born. And in that alternate world, people were very unhappy. Children died, family members were institutionalized, businesses failed, people lived in overpriced slums, parks became cemeteries, and so on.
Cranberry is not the movie’s fictional Bedford Falls, nor am I James Stewart. But, just as in the wartime film, there are some genuinely depressing issues, including the pain inflicted by today’s opioid crisis, that weigh heavily on my mind. So as I drive around the Township, I sometimes wonder what Cranberry would be like in an alternate world where nobody intervened to guide and direct it into becoming what it is today.
For more than 25 years now, I’ve had the privilege of serving this community under the direction of a visionary Board of Supervisors. By the late 1980s, they clearly saw that change was coming and knew that if they didn’t step up and steer that growth, it would roll right over them. So they stood up, crafted a plan, enacted ordinances, imposed impact fees, and used the authority they were given under state law to mold the community into an attractive, efficient, and high-value place to live, work and play.
That wasn’t easy to do. Many Western Pennsylvania communities, in their zeal for growth, have given developers free rein to do whatever they wanted, no matter its impact on traffic, revenues, aesthetics, safety or anything else. That was what developers expected from Cranberry, too. But they were wrong, and a number of spectacular conflicts resulted.
Cranberry’s growth is still taking place. While we would like to believe the tools to shape that growth are now well-established, it is still premature to hoist the ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner. But as I drive around the Township, I see evidence everywhere of our Board’s foresight. As a Cranberry resident myself, I am able to do just about everything my family needs right here – shopping, dining, healthcare, recreation, church and much, much more.
Cranberry has become a major employment center with approximately 22,000 good jobs. We are an important regional retail center. We are a regional recreation center with tournament-level athletic fields and more on the way. And we have become the residential community of choice for a constantly growing number of individuals, couples and families from throughout the tri-state area.
On Thanksgiving morning, I saw more than 1,000 people either running in the Turkey Trot or playing in one of the many Turkey Bowls taking place in our three parks. They were playing and running and laughing and enjoying life, building friendships and strengthening neighborhoods. So, like James Stewart’s character, I wondered what it would be like if those parks had never been built. Would those social relationships ever happen? Would neighborhoods and families have any place to come together? Would children have the opportunity to participate in team sports? I shudder to think what life here would be like without that critical component of our infrastructure.
However, It’s a Wonderful Life has a happy ending. Stewart’s character realizes, despite his struggles, how much good he has been able to bring to his community over the years. And the townsfolk rejoice at his turn of fortune. I can appreciate that, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to play a role in advancing Cranberry’s own wonderful life.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about our community’s growth. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org