Where is everyone?
While I have been walking around the town during the past three or four weeks collecting photographs for my ongoing BAIE-D’URFE – A DAILY PORTRAIT project (see the Our Town Facebook Group) it has dawned on me that apart from the occasional dog walker or retired resident (like me) getting some gentle exercise I hardly ever see more than a very few people out and about enjoying the parks and green spaces that the town is so proud of. Just look at the photos I have shared – only two have people in them, despite the weather having been very pleasant until these last few days.
Even at weekends, when most people have free time, the place is eerily quiet (apart from the noise of leaf blowers – but that’s a topic for another day).
Which brings me to consider the parks and recreation consultations that were held in recent months. The consultants presented us with a number of options for our green spaces which sounded interesting in theory. However in reality whatever changes and improvements are eventually decided on, I have to ask how many, if any, residents will actually make use of them? I am not aware that anyone from the consultants or the town hall approached those who live here and asked “What will you do in the parks if we do this or that? What will draw you out to make use of our green spaces?” It seems to be a no brainer that some effort be made to find out what would actually get residents out from their houses and gardens and enjoying the green spaces? We are a small town – why not ask everyone and have a broader vision about what could be offered and achieved. The internet is there, as is Canada Post – please use them.
During the summer there are people using the swimming pool, there are (predominantly out-of-towners) playing ball in John Weir Park, there is the tennis club of course (again, a majority of non-resident players) but really that’s about it. Seeing anyone out and about elsewhere is quite a rarity with the sole exception of the users of the free-run dog facility in Bertold Park.
A better solution?
So – if most people like the green spaces but only treat them as something nice to drive past on their way somewhere else, why are we considering going to the effort and expense of installing more hard surfaces – multifunction or otherwise – and play/exercise features if they are going to be largely unused?
I suggest that our town seriously look into the possibility of making at least one of our parks – around Fritz would be an ideal example – into a Nature Park.
Stop cutting the grass like the top of a pool table and plant native flowers, shrubs and trees that will attract birds and butterflies. Meandering paths through the growth will bring people in. The whole project would give educational opportunities to the town’s children.
Certainly it will take more resources to manage such a park than running a ride-on mower over the grass every couple of weeks, but that’s where our much-vaunted town volunteerism can come in. There are many knowledgeable gardeners and wildlife experts resident here – I have no doubt that enough of us could be enthused by such a project to want to offer time to making it a reality and over the years ahead to look after what would be a very special place indeed.
Such an approach would increase biodiversity in the town and provide a space in which we could wander peacefully. Such a park would really bring out more Baie-D’Urfé residents, old and young, and be of benefit to everyone.
It won’t reach maturity in my lifetime, but that’s a good thing – having a vision for the town that extends far into the future is what matters. Here is an example from Ottawa of what they have achieved in a mere 20 years or so.
Please consider making at least one park (Fritz) into a nature park.