To the editor:
In November, my husband and I will celebrate the fourth anniversary of our move to the Berkshires. We consider it among the best life decisions we've made.
Since making this our home, we've seen extraordinary plays in tiny theaters, toured historic mansions and cottages, hiked around the hills, wandered through beautiful gardens. Friends ask us what we love most about the area, and we can sum it up in a few words: It's the friendliness, the natural beauty, the arts and the history — and the charming small towns that embody all these things.
That's why we were stunned to learn that horse racing might come to Great Barrington.
There are so many concerns about horse racing in general. Not the least of these is the animal cruelty that is inherent to this industry. Just last weekend a horse died at California's Santa Anita racetrack on only the second day of racing. This was after the track owners had made extensive reforms to reduce injuries, demonstrating that it is simply not possible to make racing safe for horses.
There are potential human costs as well. Approximately 7 million Americans, including teens, live with gambling addiction. It's a serious issue that is linked to financial difficulties, job loss, crime, suicide and domestic abuse — all problems that every community wishes to minimize.
But horse racing is likely to impact quality of life even for those who are not personally affected by these issues. As a frequent visitor to Great Barrington for shopping and dinner with friends, I anticipate that the town will feel a lot less hospitable during the proposed racing season. It's reasonable to expect abysmal traffic jams amid crowds of people who are here to bet on the horses, rather than to enjoy what is so special about this area.
Horse racing is a poor fit to the character of today's Great Barrington and to the Berkshires in general. The culture, history, and beauty of this unique area are precious commodities that deserve to be protected. Saying no to horse racing is one way to do that.