Kids gone wild
You haven’t played spotlight until you’ve played it in the tall grass of an abandoned hayfield. You haven’t built a treehouse until you’ve snuck your fathers tools and pilfered scraps of lumber into the woods to build one in secret. You haven’t learned to swim until you’ve learned to swim against a current or across a choppy windwaved pond.
Growing up as a child of the 80’s just outside St. John’s, all of these opportunities were easy for me. But a child there today wouldn’t find so many hayfields to play in and has probably been banned from Fourth Pond because of the sewage being pumped into it.
Which is why, when I heard that St. John’s had instituted No-Mow Zones at many of its urban parks, I thought they were doing kids a favour. My kids’ favourite parts of Margaret Bowater Park in Corner Brook include the wooded tract between the playground and the playing fields above and the hill on the other side that’s covered in bushes and sometimes tall grass. It’s natural for children to gravitate to these areas.
Admittedly, St. John’s city council says they’ve made these zones for safety reasons — to prevent injuries in city workers mowing on a grade. And that, too, makes sense. People complain and say the workers shouldn’t be so afraid of getting injured. However, if their taxes go up because of increased insurance or workers’ compensation fees, they’d complain about that too.
No-Mow Zones save the city money. Less man hours in grass trimming, less equipment maintenance costs, less gas costs. They also reduce carbon monoxide emissions from gas powered mowers, reduce the number of gas spills from refilling mowers, and create islands of habitat for wild creatures in an urban atmosphere.
If you ask me, it’s a brilliant idea. Unfortunately, it’s one the city has had to re-evaluate.
As a child we’d picnic, play hide and seek, or just spin imaginative games while chasing insects through the tall grass of neighbouring fields. But in St. John’s, people can’t imagine sitting or playing in that tall grass. Rats, mice, and ticks are their biggest fears, it seems.
It’s unsightly, many of them declare. The world as God made it is ugly and far too wild and must be tamed with electric devices and planned plantings.
I guess we all have our different opinions about how the world should look and what we really need to fear. But my fear is that children growing up even in rural areas today are being denied the ability to experience anything remotely wild. My own children informed me that walking through tall grass means you’ll get sick from ticks. As a child I hadn’t even heard of Lyme Disease — my greatest fear was stumbling across a fairy circle and getting enchanted.
The other day as I hiked with my children, my daughter swiped a bit of that foamy white stuff we used to call “ fly spit” from a stalk and rubbed it into her hands.
“ What are you doing?!” I cried, for as a child “ fly spit” was the grossest thing you could touch. “It’s hand sanitizer, mommy,” she replied. Hand sanitizer. Even the wild has become sanitized for our children.