Sunday, July 21, 2013

Parks and Wreck

Everybody loves parks.
Even the people that never go to them. I think it's guilt, myself.
I tend to see parks as museums, as in: "On your left is a representative sample of what the world would still look like if human beings hadn't been so good at paving, polluting, and proliferating."

I go to them occasionally - and always leave embarrassed. It has long been one of my sturdiest tenets that the good parts of childhood should not be cast aside as one grows older.

So, I still like to swing. 

That is, on swing sets. (ahem)

If you haven't done it in awhile, try it again. It provides maximum thrills for minimum skills. Children WILL look at you oddly, however. Their eyes will say: "Hey! I'M the hope for the future!
Shouldn't you be out chopping down trees or making war or working some icky job so you can pay taxes that'll pay for these parks for me?" 

Also I like to nap under a tree, and upon waking pretend that I just fell out of it. The first post-arboreal human. Then I teach myself to walk upright and use my thumbs. But people stare at that too.

Still, I am a Park Supporter, as most people are. I am also blessed/cursed with a sadistic curiousity streak, which thankfully most people aren't.

So when I found out that the local parks and rec department was holding a public hearing, I went - voluntarily.

Standard Parks and Rec
meeting stance.
Now I am in stable condition and am told that I can expect a full recovery.

The meeting was at a - surprise! - park, leading me to wonder where the meetings are held for the Department of Corrections, or Sanitation.

Copies of the meetings agenda were passed out to the packed and seething crowd. The list looked huge, but I sooned learned that most of it was regular business; the pomp and circumstance of public officialdom.

We went down the list as if the wheels of government really were greased, with, um grease. It was official, just really really fast. Rapid fire Roberts Rules of Order. Punk parliamentary procedures.

If you think white people can't rap then you've never seen a seasoned
Typical Public Hearing scene. 
committee member with a full docket, a gavel, and a dinner date later on.

Things were cruising by so well that I was beginning to think we'd all make it home by Star Trek time. Then they got to a proposed change in a park's facilities and all hell broke loose. 

While shouts were exchanged around me and fists waved above me I cowered in my chair and studied the maps attached to the back of the agenda.

Dual use, people. Not DUEL use!
Apparently to save money years ago this particular park was built with a shared tennis and basketball court. Not working out, I gathered, as the din of impending battle rose on all sides.

While I waited to see if the chairs would fly it occurred to me that for a hearing, there wasn't much listening going on.

I wasn't really effected either way: 
  • For tennis I use the high school, where there are four courts separated into twos by a 15 ft. chain link fence. You play over the entire four court area with the fence as your net. Forty-nis, we call it, because it is four times the size of ten-nis. There are a lot of lobs.
  • And I play basketball at the elementary school, where the rims are only 6 feet off the ground. Why make it hard?

After the cries of mutually assured destruction had been gavelled away the commission quickly voted to put up a sign that rationed the court to odd and even days, like the gas lines of the 70's.
Compromise is the worst solution,
except for all the others.

Nobody was happy, but everybody went home. 

As I was helping stack the chairs I asked one of the commissioners if she thought the court rationing would work. She shrugged hopefully. "You try the $100 ideas first, before the $50,000 dollar ideas."

Was she concerned about altercations during this fiscally prudent test period? A tired smile. "So far its been a standoff at the court. The basketball players are bigger and younger, but the tennis players are already holding weapons."

15 years later - still going strong!
Oddly, I felt cared for. My community is not growing mindlessly, like a bacterium, nor is it being ruled by a Shadowy Overlord. Rather it is being fought for by its residents and administered by an amazingly patient group of volunteers.

And it all takes place out in the open, in a forum that resembles a cross between the WWF, C-SPAN and Oprah.

This is Democracy at its most primal, most effective, and most entertaining.

Doesn't mean I'm going back though.

Angus McMahan

(Chair throwing pics from and, respectively.)


  1. That sounds a lot like the city subcommittee meetings I have attended ... and used to be a member of. Some issues would bring out big crowds, and since we had no money to speak of, we tried the inexpensive changes first.

    So often these meetings had no attendees at all, and those meetings were where the real boring-sounding but high impact decisions were made.

    Good for you for doing your civic duty and attending ... and staying out of chair throwing range!

    1. Hey Tammy - yeah, that's the only time I show up; when something directly relating to my environment is being debated. I've been to several over the years, but this was the one that wrapped up in a neat bow for a finale. :-)