Monday, 13 May 2013

hillcrest park guardians

i went to a council hearing today to support the "hillcrest park guardians" group, who are seeking increased council funding for a playground.  on the surface, it seemed to be a pretty small and localised issue, but it ended up being quite interesting.

the guardians are a group that got together initially because of the way the park was being used.  local high school students would often gather there and have fights.  it wasn't particularly welcoming. so they started organising events there, and getting the community more involved with the park.

they've been pretty successful with that - i was there yesterday for the "hillcrest park youth festival", largely organised by young people.  there was music, food, nail polish, and with the beautiful weather, plenty of people having a good time.  another example of young people contributing to their community, and being positive role-models for all of us really.  there are plenty of older people who could learn a thing or 2 from these teenagers.

a good park becomes a place of community - a place where neighbours meet & get to know each other.  a sense of community that seems to be so much lacking these days, with the push for individual responsibility.  not that i'm against the latter, more against the idea that the latter is the only thing that matters, and that we're losing that sense of also being responsible for and caring for each other.

this particular group has also helped to create that sense of community through their activism.  they gathered 500 signatures on a petition, and presented to council today, well backed up with facts and figures.  they didn't just ask for more funding, they showed where that money could come from within existing budgets.  essentially, there's another park very close to this one which has received almost 3 times the funding of hillcrest park, and the guardians are asking that proposed funding for that park be diverted to this one, given that the other park has had extensive development and maintenance in recent years.

what was particularly inspiring to me today was the participation of young  children in the presentation to council.  they looked to be over 5 years old, and the presentation began with a child of around 10 years old giving a speech about what the park meant to him.  the other kids were holding signs with pictures showing the current state of the playground & the park.  i thought it was wonderful for these children to have practical experience of how their democratic system works, and i hope it inspires them in the future.

i was appalled to hear that earlier that day, the property council had submitted that parks should be sold & privatised, and more of the lands used for parks be opened up for housing development.  aside from the health implications for the city, it showed such a callousness towards community and community spaces.

and funnily enough, even though one speaker had clearly and simply explained where the funding would come from, councillor roger hennebry still felt the need to say there wasn't money available for the extension and upgrade of the playground.  he would have been better off addressing the equity issues around one park getting much more funding than the other.

i'll await with interest the outcome on this.  i think the group made some extremely good points and presented their case well.

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