When my kids were young we’d visit Beacon Hill virtually every day. We’d count turtles and eagles, watch squirrels dig for peanuts, collect feathers and visit baby goats in the petting zoo.
At night you can lie on the grass beside the band shell and see bats circling in and out of giant cedars. This summer, my husband and I watched heron fledglings being fed in the uppermost branches of a tree near the old stone bridge, their outstretched wings and prehistoric cries eerie and compelling.
It seems that every decade or so, someone, or some supposedly well intentioned group, focuses on Beacon Hill Park and all the green space (read: real estate) and proposes that the park needs “improvement.”
There was a movement pressing for community gardens in Beacon Hill in the early 1990s, another group got it in their heads to try to develop a tea room up at The Checkerboard House, a dilapidated building which, for years, provided respite from the elements at the top of the hill.
Now it’s been asserted that there is a traffic problem in the park. That speeding and aggressive drivers use it as short cut on their way to and from work. In an effort to discourage cars, parking spaces have been reduced and new signage and road blocks installed.
I can’t fathom why anyone would use Beacon Hill Park as a short cut. Who are these speeders? Where do they work? At the Legislature a stone’s throw away? At the tearoom in James Bay? The corner store? And where are they coming from, the Uplands? Have I missed something here? It doesn’t make sense to cut through the park if one is in a hurry because, quite simply, it is not a direct route to town.
I have difficulty picturing impatient drivers zooming past the cricket pitch and petting zoo, leaving startled peacocks in their wake. The park doesn’t need road blocks. There are enough endorphin fuelled joggers and cyclists, tourists walking in circles seeking directions to Good Acre Lake, the bathrooms, or both, who slow traffic down already. Not to mention the horse drawn carts, Pedi cabs and wayward ducks traversing those roads morning, noon, and night. You’d have to be daft to drive through there on your way to work. You could get stuck in there for days.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that a side effect of this scheme also diverts the solitary few who cruise that particular edge of the woods and frequent Lover’s Lane.
Whatever the agenda, it should go without saying that the funds our city is pouring into this project would be better off invested into safe shelters and methadone clinics.
All photos by Margaret Blackwood