A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Messy Park

Armoury Common park Armoury Common is a jewel-like pocket park on the corner of Spring and Pearl Streets in Springfield. It dates from the 70s, when the area was rehabbed with lots of HUD money. In an attempt to attract working people to downtown, a group of apartment buildings were renovated, tennis courts were added, and this park was built. The gentrification didn't quite stick. The apartments started accepting Section 8, the tennis courts became basketball courts, and the park got rather run down.

Two years ago, probably because a new federal courthouse was being built nearby, the park was completely renovated. I was happy to see that the original design elements (cobblestones, river rocks, gilded amillary sundial, funky old-fashioned streetlamps and benches) were kept. In Springfield, you always have to worry that stone- and brickwork will be demolished and replaced by concrete. But in this case, the original vision was adhered to.

New sod was laid, some bushes were planted, and a new irrigation system was put in to water the whole business. The pump in the fountain was repaired and actually turned on. The river rock basin was repaired, and the sundial removed, regilded, and replaced. A statue which had been languishing in a closed park was relocated here. When the work was complete, the mayor and assorted bigwigs showed up for a ribbon-cutting.

I've got my own ideas about what should have been done to this park (it's purposely not kid-friendly, for starters), but the effort was certainly better than nothing. Unfortunately, the space is rapidly going to hell again. And why wouldn't it? This park has a bunch of posted rules, but no enforcement. It's never locked or patrolled by park rangers, police, or Armoury Commons staff. The shady corners make it a perfect haven for drinking and drugging. Nobody in her right mind would take a lunch break here or bring kids to play.

Here's a photo of the corner of the park nearest to me. This was taken about four hours after a park employee cleaned up the entire area. There are two trash barrels within fifteen feet of this spot.

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