I’m lucky enough to live near a very beautiful park, which I visit almost daily.
The park has swings and sunsets, tea and tennis, boats and bikes. As we copywriters like to say, it has something for everyone. And because of that, all sorts of people use it: parents and professionals, tots and teenagers, runners and ramblers. Its roots in the community around it are deep.
Most of the time, there’s plenty of room for everyone. You can always find a spot for a secluded picnic, a quiet stroll or even a few minutes’ meditation. Even so, parts of the park can sometimes seem a bit crowded. And that’s when arguments happen.
It’s all a matter of perspective: one person’s rightful enjoyment is another’s irritating selfishness. But really, who has most right to use the park, or decide how it’s run?
Some people have been coming to the park for decades; I first played here in the early 1970s. But that doesn’t give me a right to say who should visit now. If anything, it should give me a clearer sense of how many different people have used the park over the years. They helped to make my memories.
Or maybe the real park users are those who use it most. As a young adult, I hardly visited at all. But since we had a daughter and a dog, I feel like I never leave. Others might only come once a year, but remember that visit every day until the next time they visit. Who’s getting the most out of it?
Some put a lot into to the park by organising events or managing its upkeep. I’m grateful for their work. At the other end of the scale are kids and dogs, who are recent arrivals by definition. They don’t really contribute anything but their love and their laughter. But they bring the park to life. What would it be without them?
We all use the park in different ways. But the point is that we all use it, and we can only use it together. We’re all details in the big picture.
Of course, nobody wants to see the park neglected, or wilfully vandalised. And nobody wants to be cut up by a speeding bike, or terrorised by an aggressive dog. But that’s no reason to turn against the whole cycling community, or the whole canine community. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole barrel.
To keep the park safe, there have to be some rules. Maybe those rules aren’t perfect. But before we make more rules, or put up more barriers, we have to ask whether the solution might be worse than the problem. Maybe the park is fine as it is. Maybe this is even the best it could possibly be, or pretty close. Maybe we should appreciate what we have before we trample it in the rush for something else.
For my part, I hope the park stays exactly how it is, for as long as it can. I’m glad that its gates are open to everyone, and I hope they stay that way. And if you ever want to come and visit it, you’ll be very welcome.