Monday, November 16, 2009

Where does your child play?

Go to University Ave. in St. Paul, just east of Fairview. I honestly don't recall the name of the specific street, it's the first one east of Fairview. On the north side of that intersection is a YMCA and a small school building. The school has 2 signs: Avalon School (sign says its a public 7-12 school) and Twin Cities German Immersion School (is a K-5 public charter school).

Stand on the sidewalk in front of the school. There's a fence.

Look at vast expanse of wood chips. This is my son's play ground. Is there any grass? No. The grass off to your right is the front yard of the business there.

Walk into the play ground and look around. There's no gate in the fence to keep my kindergarten son in. There's no gate to keep you or any other member of society out. Why?

Look at the sign in front of the fence where you're standing. It reads: St. Paul Park & Recreation Board.

This was brought up at the German School's Board Meeting earlier this year. "The planning is complicated by the fact that the area in front of the school is owned by the City of St. Paul and forms part of a public park. Fencing and landscaping are both seen as high priorities, but both require permission from the city."

The school isn't allowed to do anything - not even landscaping - because the City of St Paul is ... well, I have no clue what they're doing.

The following was mentioned by Mr.Gopher: The park was donated to the city in 1906 (or so), with the caveat that it be a park. Nothing has been done with it in the intervening, um ... 103 years. Yeah, not '96, but '06. And so long ago, that one needs to ask which '06.

Now, go to St Paul's website. Click on the page to find one of their lovely Parks. You can't find this one. aaaaaahhh ... I guess the park is so important that someone lost it & they don't even know they have it ...

Go back to the fence & look east. There's grass in front of the first building, and then it turns into businesses' buildings and parking lots.

Look west. The YMCA has a fenced in yard (and apparently installed the playset without city permission - a great example of forgiveness being easier to get than permission). After that, the Griggs Building has its parking lot on the "City Park Land". The corner of Fairview & University has a bus stop. The "Park Information Sign" is there, but there's no park near it, just the Griggs' parking lot.

Someone in St. Paul went through the bother of paying for the nice, colorful sign with multicultural images. For a park that doesn't exist. But they can't allow the schools to put in grass? Even if the schools pay?

Insert lots of frustrated profanity.

Insert more.

Why won't the city just let the schools make the place nice for the children? It's not as if they could actually honestly claim "we're about to do something intelligent with the property".

Can you honestly imagine any public school letting total strangers into the school's playground? I could go sit on this school's playground and they'll have to let me because it's a "public park".

Now, mind you, I'm not paranoid about sex offenders or such. But I am really annoyed that the general public is allowed to wander around where these kids play and can interrupt them. I'm really, really annoyed that my kid is stuck trying to play soccer on wood chips. And, by far, I'm *most* annoyed that there's no complete fence to keep the balls and kids from running into University Avenue. That's not an annoyance factor - this is basic bodily safety.


Peter T said...

Fortunately, over the extended Thanksgiving holidays, some workers installed fences with doors in the gaps of the existing fence. The combined fence still isn't all enclosing, but the children would have to go quite a long way to Saint Paul before reaching the end of the fence, and that is probably enough to herd them in.

Gopher MPH said...

I noticed the gates immediately. It is exactly what I wanted. Just something to keep 5 year-olds from blasting out into the traffic on University. And, while not a goal of the city, I'm sure, it should also eliminate the casual people deciding to just cut through the school yard.

I do wonder what prompted the city to install it...? Did some of the parents complain? MPR had a solicitation of 'what stories ought to be covered in your neighborhood?'. I responded with a succinct precis of my gateless fence ire. I fantasize that some reporter from MPR called the city planners to verify what I claimed (I included URLs, etc to support my claims) ... and someone decided $50 at the lumber yard was better than MPR demanding interviews. Of course, that is a nice fantasy ...