Kids gone wild

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION -

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.

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