What is a Park? Dawson Park, Edmonton
September 3, 2020
This contribution from Raquel ‘Rocky’ Feroe is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.
Now that I’m older, my days often start the same way. I take a walk in Edmonton’s Dawson Park with both my two-footed and four-footed housemates. People ask if I get bored going to the same park every day. To which I answer. Does life get richer with time? Can relationships grow?
As is typical, by the end of our walk my husband has carefully selected spots for the dog to “do her business.” She tucks her offerings in the undergrowth. She is discrete, unlike the coyotes who leave their piles right in the middle of the shared path. Because of peer teachings and expectations, I pick up the dog poop but leave the coyote scat alone. Sometimes I feel conflicted putting these “gifts” in the trash can.
When I went looking for the human place to “do my business,” I met two people who were surprisingly friendly and welcoming. “Can we help you?” they asked. They explained they were hired by a social enterprise to help keep the washrooms safe during COVID. “Thanks,” I said, “you give the park an even better vibe.”
It’s so nice to be greeted (Note, my dog taught me that).
I learned later that a social enterprise hires these folks as washroom attendants. They are people who are hard to employ because of addiction recovery issues, legal issues, and the like. After I thanked them for being in the park, we got into a long discussion. I explained that I am used to city staff being in the park with loud two-stroke engines polluting the air in an effort to win the “war on weeds”. The bathroom attendant said, “white man brings the weeds then tries to destroy the weeds, good luck.”
Parks are all about relationships and it’s not complicated. Here’s some of what I’ve learned on my walks with two and four-footed companions:
- Wag your tail when you greet a tree or a leaf roller.
- Observe and learn.
Parks are for people. People can be in good relationship with the land and learn how to be in a better relationship with each other by just being there and observing.
I am left wondering if urban parks could become a model for how we could shift to a new view of prosperity. One that:
- Better respects nature and people.
- Offers more blue and green “infrastructure” such as modelled by beaver.
- Creates opportunities for more park attendants, park ambassadors and interpreters.
- Gives priority to people’s power (labour) instead of carbon (two-stroke engines).
Stops the war on weeds and embraces coexisting in the right relationship with nature.
I am going to keep thinking about this possibility and what it might look like. I am going to think more about the question: “what is a park?”.
Photo credit: Marcia O’Connor, Flickr Creative Commons
About Raquel Feroe
Rocky started as a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics before earning a Medical Degree from Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH. She is a practiced specialist in Internal Medicine in Alberta. Rocky was happy to retire from her medical profession in May of 2018 and focus on SPICE and other projects that advance sustainability.
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This contribution from Raquel ‘Rocky’ Feroe is part of Park People’s A Day at the Park series, exploring how city parks shape us. Be sure to check out all of the contributors throughout the summer months.Choose Another Park Story