To the Editor:
This past Sunday, a beautiful sunny day, I walked the length of the river from Founders Park to Canal Place. People were everywhere and smiling broadly. But what was most exceptional was how creative people were on the blank canvas of green grass along the waterfront.
The creative uses of these wide-open, public commons was just amazing. Groups of men and boys playing soccer, with their bikes nearby … whole families picnicking on blankets … a group of six high schoolers drawing and painting the boathouse … others stretched out sunning … strollers on the lawn and gravel pathway (with and without dogs) … children excitedly pointing at the gulls and ducks. And they carved up and created this universe all by themselves.
Like a nature reserve, except better — we humans can creatively adapt to share the commons as no other species can. And while many planned parks strongly direct activity using “recreational” devices, it appears that in Old Town it is the open commons that spark our imaginations. There was no sense of competition for equipment. Instead, mostly people shared and made places they needed to freely breathe in an urban environment that mostly closes off the sky, river, and landscape. In contrast, we can all play in our passive parks with boundaries that stretch between clouds and a river. And trees for cool shade.
We deliberately make these kinds of “wild” places for animals to thrive. We need to make sure they are there for people to flourish, as well. A picnic on soft cool and green grass beats one on hot concrete any day. Painting a long, unobstructed view of the boathouse, gulls resting in the river, the wide Potomac waters is an option we should cherish and maintain. The many creative uses of our passive parks on the river inspired a joyous band of humans, and we were all smiling at one another!