Parks and open spaces are crucial components of any city. Having public, accessible, free spaces to spend time yourself, with friends, or as a community is something many of us take for granted until it is no longer there. Historically, we’ve done pretty good in this respect. In St. John’s, we have Bannerman Park, Bowring Park, Victoria Park, Churchill Park and Pippy Park – just to name a few. Some of these function as compact, neighborhood parks – others serve a greater purpose in the Northeast Avalon region.
I took a walk this morning in the Waterford Valley, heading down to Bowring Park from the west end of downtown along Waterford Bridge Road. one of my favorite walks in the city. The sky was overcast, but the air warm, and I was delighted to see a healthy crowd present once I got there. Bowring Park is an amazing amenity for the west end of the city and it’s a place I often find myself on days off.
If you look at some of the city’s newer neighborhoods like Kenmount Terrace, there are no community amenities to be seen. The nearest retail stores are the soulless big box superstores on Kelsey Drive, the nearest schools in the Avalon Mall area, no Grand Concourse trails, and a congested four-lane arterial road is the sole route to practically anywhere. This kind of development saddens me. Thankfully last year, the city announced it would be spending over a million dollars in the development of a park for Kenmount Terrace, but families living there now are pretty much stuck with nothing in walking distance for now.
I live in the Avalon Mall area, and we have little in the way of community space as well. Wishingwell Park to the south has negligible everyday uses. The nearest park of significance is at Mundy Pond, where a beautiful and busy walking trail circles the pond. My part of town has a distinct loneliness on foot, with Kenmount Road and lower Thorburn Road’s massive, uninviting nature, coupled with the sheer automobile dominance that the Avalon Mall and Kelsey Drive bring. We are fortunate that many Metrobus routes originate at the mall, but the area nonetheless could use quite a bit of work. I chose this neighborhood primarily due to its proximity to the university campus and while there are many things I’d love to see changed, it remains a fairly decent place to live in the city.
I feel open spaces are something we undervalue and underappreciate. Sure, we can all meet at the Avalon Mall – but wouldn’t it be nice to have community space that doesn’t involve buying something? We can only dream.