Sunday , 28 May 2023
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Contemplate the Cherry Tree

An avenue of cherry trees near the entrance to Bayfront Park is the prettiest thing to see for miles. Each spring people stroll beneath them, take photos and feel uplifted in their presence.

  This year is no different, except people politely wait their turn to enjoy them, as they follow physical distancing guidelines.

  There is something to learn about the perfect pleasure a tree delivers. They provide beauty, shade, habitat for creatures, and they help clean the air. Why don’t we plant more trees in parks, and scale back the rush to install sculpture, gazeboes, monuments and plaques? A tree is cheap compared to a structure, and if given a good start in life requires far less maintenance.

  As we recover from Covid-19, the need to embrace simplicity, sensibility and frugality will find a new audience.

  Take a walk along the waterfront trail toward the High Level Bridge. It has sustained a new assault from wind and water. Waves pounded it last weekend for hours, and chunks of the asphalt paving have tumbled into the harbour.  It is wonderful that it is paved, and that people can rollerblade, cycle and skateboard on it. But is a paved path sustainable? Perhaps it’s time for the city to look at hard packed stone as a surface, similar to rail trails. Of course, it could wash away in waves, but it would be far cheaper than laying new asphalt.

  I love good architecture, and landscape architecture, but sometimes the grandest design is no better than the simpler one. Bryant Park in New York City is a beloved space that relies on beautiful trees, benches, tables and chairs for its structure. We need more spaces like this in Hamilton.

The simplicity of Brant Park in NYC is built on trees, shade and places to sit

  The Covid-19 crisis is generating deep discussions about the future of cities. Some say people will flee the density of urban cores for the perceived safety of suburbia. I don’t agree.

  Recently I had to make three trips for supplies. I walked to Marchese Pharmacy on James Street North, and was in and out in five minutes. At Pet Valu on Wilson Street the owners were set up at the entrance.  They shopped for cat food for me, packaged it up, and left it on a table-all the time keeping the required distance, and being incredibly cheerful and kind.

  At the The Lighthouse grocery store on James North, I bought lettuce, bread and a tray full of herbs to plant. This little store is run by a Portuguese family and brightens the streetscape. I was in and out, avoided people, and was on my way in five minutes. There are few downsides to this kind of urban living.

A view of James Street North over food at flowers at The Lighthouse grocery store

  In the new order that awaits us after restrictions, we need to think about wants versus needs. For instance, we want LRT but we need clean water. So why did the city council decide this week that sewage leaking into Chedoke Creek, that leads into Cootes Paradise, and into Hamilton Harbour really doesn’t pose any long term threat? And what exactly is the timeline for that long term threat, and where is the crystal ball the city is using for this pronouncement?

  But a spending a billion dollars for an LRT system that sounds like it will be shortened to a stop that begins somewhere and a stop that ends nowhere? As a farmer once said to me about a wobbly financial plan, “That just don’t pencil out.”

  There are many things to ponder as we await a financial reboot. And we barely understand what that will mean.

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