Our opinion: Plan to re-use

Published 11:17 am Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The sentiment of many who watched the Mower County Fairgrounds’ grandstand burn on Saturday was, “What a waste.” While the grandstand was itself unsound, much of its material — from the heavy wooden bleachers to the tin of the roof — appeared to have life left in it still. That life went up in flames in the service of efficiency and our highly regulated society. There’s no point crying over spilled milk, but there is wisdom in applying the lessons of the grandstand to the next structure built at the fairgrounds.

When news broke the grandstand would be burned, plenty of county residents thought to themselves, “I could sure make use of some of that lumber.” In the end, whether useful or not, it all was put to the torch because a morass or regulations, worries about liability and the possibility of additional expense made it impractical — although not impossible — to do anything but burn the structure. And then, besides the waste, there was all the pollution the fire pumped into the atmosphere.

There is no way to change the situation that led to Saturday’s controlled fire. There ought to be, however, a way to make better plans for the future. As the county looks to replace the grandstand with a smaller, more modern seating area, perhaps history and the environment would be best served if some planning — and even some dollars — went into creating something “green” in the sense that when the structure’s useful life is over, decades in the future, there will be a better way to dispose of it than fire. Planning now to build with re-usable materials makes sense. Planning now for eventual disassembly rather than flames makes sense. Planning now to build without using hazardous materials makes sense.

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In the day when the last grandstand was built, it was uncommon to give thought to re-using or recycling materials. Now it is commonplace. We urge the county board and its employees to plan for the future when they orders designs for new fairgrounds seating.