BARKER — A long line of yellow police tape cut through the bustling crowd congregated in Golden Hill State Park Thursday to protest up to 70 proposed wind turbines.
At each end were identical signs bearing the words:
“220 foot turbine blade starts here.”
“Look at the lawn behind you...that would be the length of one turbine blade,” said Pam Atwater, president of the advocacy group Save Ontario Shores. “And at approximately 6:30 if the weather holds, there will be a plane flying overhead at 650 feet.”
She said that represented the height of one wind turbine.
The widespread anger at Thursday evening’s protest had been brewing for close to two years.
Members of the community have been pushing back against the proposal from Apex Clean Energy, a Virginia power company, since it was announced.
Front lawns in the Town of Barker are decorated with posters, many displaying messages like “Apex Go Home!” and “Too Big Too Close.”
Rachel Wilson, a lifelong Barker resident, had a little “sign-making party” hours before the event began Thursday with friends, siblings, nieces and nephews. They brought out the poster board creations and hoisted them over their heads in the drizzling rain.
In one, there were hand-drawn bats flying near the spinning blades of a wind turbine, with the caption: “Protect all flying creatures.”
“We’re just really worried about the ramifications of the wind turbines,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen the impact at the other end of the lake — property values have gone down, wildlife is impacted.”
Chief among the concerns of protesters was that wind turbines would permanently change the community that they have called home.
Lois Klatt and Joyce Bennett — residents of 60-plus years and neighbors — sat in side-by-side lawn chairs long before the protest began. They expressed concern that the skyscraper-sized turbines will ruin the vast plains and hills that have defined their area.
Klatt, whose voice rose as she spoke, refers to the wind turbines as “aliens.” She remembers when they went up in Sheldon Hills along Route 77.
“It’s horrible what it does to our beautiful land,” she said. “Just a big eyesore.”
But Cat Mosley, an Apex public affairs manager, said this hesitation comes from a “fear of the unknown.”
She said it’s a natural response to new emerging technology.
Although she said she sympathizes with community members who have genuine concerns, she believs the wind turbines are in their best interest.
Aside from cutting down on carbon emissions, she said it will bring a wave of economic activity to the area, particularly for farmers.
She said they have the support of plenty of landowners throughout Niagara and Orleans County.
The dissenting voice is just louder, she said.
“This group has certainly been very vocal, but we have strong support as well,” Mosley said.
“There are some people who think wind turbines can be beautiful– I am one.”
Susan Campbell, of Lyndonville, said she feels a moral responsibility to support the wind turbines,
“I have 4 children who also have children. Their future is important to me,” Campbell said.