Just an opinion piece we missed from the community section of the Herald. Lots of good old common sense.
FOR ABOUT 10 years before I moved to the little house I live in now, I lived within a two-minute walk of the North Common.
During those years, I walked across that big soggy field twice daily on my way to and from work. I’ve worked this out for some of my male readers, who I know LOVE numbers, and are already calculating this in their heads anyway: it works out to about 4,700 trips, allowing for statutory holidays, two weeks vacation a year, and a couple of sick days.
My partner got mugged there once in broad daylight when a couple of doofuses tried to take her bag, which, fortunately, she had strapped diagonally across her body. They ran off, red-faced, after she more or less gave them some anatomical/recreational advice as to how they could spend the rest of their day.
I remember once fearing that I would die there, as I traipsed across the tundra in the middle of a howling blizzard. I think it was Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day or something ridiculous, when normal people were not expected to put their lives on the line to get to work, so I was feeling doubly sorry for myself and seriously considering just giving up and lying down to have a good cry.
Anyway, my point is that the common and I have a pretty intimate relationship. And the other point I really want to make is this: apart from being a nice quiet place to walk, and a good spot for a dog walk or game of softball or Frisbee, it’s pretty useless in terms of anything else.
Unless you feel like climbing a bleacher, there’s almost nowhere to sit. The fountain is rarely on, and of course it’s stuck behind that huge, ugly fence. You can’t get a hot dog or a drink of water. So, unless you’ve got a dog or a game or there’s a massive concert in the middle of it, there’s no other reason to go there.
This week, Halifax Regional Municipality held a public meeting to solicit feedback on a proposal to make some changes to the Halifax Commons. The proposal dates to 1994, so you can see that these upgrades have been developing at the usual breakneck speed of progress in Halifax.
The plan includes some great ideas — improved landscaping, more trees, better lighting, upgrades to the sports fields, widened pathways, more seating areas, a redesign of the fountain, new kiosks, and allowances for public art. But perhaps most controversially, the plan also incorporates a "Special Events Plaza" at the corner of North Park and Cogswell.
That plaza (and the widened pathways) will involve some paving, and the paving appears to be what most rankles the Friends of the Halifax Common, whose rather poignant motto is "Helping Protect What’s Left."
I do agree with the Friends that the preservation of public green space is extremely important. But their position on this plan, as posted on their website, is that it ". . . continues the erosion of public open land by . . . (making) way for a permanent hard-surfaced plaza for concerts, using asphalt instead of permeable materials for wider paths on the Common and creating hard surfaced entrances."
It’s not the usability, or the greater accessibility or the potential opportunities that interest the Friends, it’s the asphalt. I would argue that even if this corner is paved, it’s still "public" and "open," and I would suggest that if a space is "green" but very few people are using it, it’s just a waste of good public space.
Angela Mombourquette is a freelance writer and filmmaker living in Halifax.