"I'm not annoyed because we are not recreating the past in Atlanta.
I am annoyed because we are not creating a beautiful future."
Atlanta has announced the plans for The Gulch, that mysterious pit of parking and darkness deep beneath street level in downtown Atlanta. The Mayor made the big reveal in front of City Council the other day. My review: snore. Same ol' same ol'. Maybe I'm missing something, but where is Atlanta's Maggie Daley Park? Where is Atlanta's version of Tumbling Bay or, heaven forbid, of New York's Governor's Island Adventure Playground?!?
Are we supposed to keep our children inside, or perhaps, just not let them go downtown at all? "They can be such an inconvenience," is the general consensus. Do I sound annoyed? I should. It could be because I grew up in Atlanta. Back in the day when we could ride our bikes down Peachtree to Lenox and survive to talk about it. I'm so old I remember riding horses on what would become I-75! Kids were expected to be everywhere.
But, I'm not annoyed because we are not recreating the past in Atlanta. I am annoyed because we are not creating a beautiful future. What happened to the "Beloved Community"? What happened to the "City too busy to hate"? Aren't we trying to be inclusive? Or are we just pretending? Inclusivity includes children.
Take a look at what happens when a beautiful playground, full of trees, plants, and fun gets plopped down in the middle of 'nowhere.' In little more than an instant it becomes a 'somewhere'. New York has even taken on a real adventure playground on Governor's Island. An adventure playground is a little bit of messy heaven that is one of the best things that could happen to a child's brain. They go in under the careful trained eye of playworkers and they play, build, destroy, build again, make friends, learn math without realizing it.... and, if done right, parents are not allowed inside the gate. If trained right, the playworkers stay out of the way while always watching to make sure the kids are safe, but making sure it is the children who are doing the playing with no adults throwing in sharp-edged 'shoulds'.
Tumbling Bay, London
There are SO many things we could do to make The Gulch amazing. Acknowledging that children exist and need to be provided with beautiful places to play as well as the time and permission to play is critical.
I want so much for my beautiful hometown to survive all of the tree destruction and all of the building. We must grow, I know. But, if we are to retain the heart and soul of the town I once knew then grow THAT, nourish THAT, and we will become spectacular. If these suggestions sound like child's play and irrelevant, then, my friend, you need to loosen up your heart a little bit and let your brain see what providing extraordinary spaces for children and families and even playful millennials can do. If you want your pockets full of coin, you will like the results. If you want your heart full and a brave wonderful legacy left behind, get ready. Providing playful beauty and wonder is revolutionary. It will make Atlanta all that it can be and more.
Maggie Daley Park, Chicago