UPDATE: While I am normally loathe to delete things I have written, in this case I felt it was just the right thing to do. I made some untrue statements about a group that is ultimately just trying its best to do positive things with limited resources in the world. Not only were they not true, they were patently false and more than a little offensive.
That being said, my concerns about the playground and the trees still stands. I just removed all mention of things that, upon meeting the Friends of Penn Treaty Park, I realized were not true about them or their aims. My interest is in a) having civil discourse, b) having honest discourse and c) expressing how I feel. I am not always aware of the truth when I initially write to express my feelings, but I am always willing to learn where others are coming from and adjust in order to keep the conversation going.
Coming from a mindset outside of nature, people believe that the way things get done is to draw a map, then cut out everything that doesn’t conform to the map. At Penn Treaty Park, a beautiful, historically sacred location on the banks of the Delaware in my city, they want to build a new playground.
What Is the New Penn Treaty Park Playground Plan Really About?
The playground in question currently looks like a park you’d find in a working class neighborhood. It’s got a swingset, dirt/mulch ground, a slide, stairs and stuff to climb on. Kids have fun running around while their parents watch and chat. It is low-key and approachable by all. Family reunions, weddings and other large gatherings with kids happen at Penn Treaty all the time, and kids don’t complain. It’s a park. There’s fun stuff.
The Penn Treaty Park Playground as it stands now looks too Joe Schmoe, too working-class for such a “waterfront treasure.” So what is there to do?
If that means cutting down hundred-year-old trees and replacing them with plastic tree stumps in the name of supposed beautification, then so be it for them. To me, the symbolism is terrifying.
When the Meld invaded the free neighborhoods, it didn’t do so under threat of war; it did so with gifts and promises of plastic happiness, and so the people were confused. “Do we really need to fight this?” “It’s an upgrade.” “It’ll be better.” “It’ll be cleaner.” By the time they lost their freedom and communities, it was already too late.
I am a novelist and writer, and I know the power of symbols. The sycamore trees in Penn Treaty Park are representative of the Treaty Elm under which the “only treaty never sworn to and never broken” was signed between the Quakers and the Lenape Turtle Clan. Without this symbolic environmental legacy, Penn Treaty becomes just another waterfront park. They will replace the living symbols of this historic moment with a plastic “turtle structure” to “serve as welcoming agent.”
But the blessings of nature belong to us all. The legacy is ours, as is the city. We need to fight back and make our voices heard.