Common commandeered

Diverse community on Halifax Common under increasing threat with city council allowing---and heavily subsidizing---mega-concerts.

To the editor,

For the last 15 years, I've spent Sunday afternoons playing baseball on the Common. Some of my teammates have been playing together here for 30 years. While we play, the rest of the diamonds are full; there's also an ultimate frisbee game, the regular cricket match, flag football, a pickup soccer game and innumerable groups chatting, reading or sunbathing. In all, I'd estimate more than 500 people move through the Common during our game. Such varied community use is simply what the word "Common" denotes.

But that designation is obviously under increasing threat, as we know, with city council allowing---and heavily subsidizing---mega-concerts. Public access to the "Common" has been blocked and the turf churned up until snowfall. Remember the promises about speedy cleanup? An HRM web page provides detailed and lengthy specifications about concert cleanup, which even extend to stipulations about fertilizer application rates, but anyone who crosses the Common knows how poorly the words translate into action. In fact, our ball game scheduled for diamond 7 on Sunday, June 7 (that's 2009, not 2008) was cancelled because---according to city staff---the field still isn't in good enough condition after last year's events.

Soon, we'll have McCartney as well as Kiss. This year's events are two months earlier, which means that public access to the Common will be compromised at the beginning of the summer, rather than at the end. We've been told this year's plan involves the other end of the Common. It's good to spread the wreckage, I suppose.

I can't imagine that anyone isn't pleased that Halifax has attracted world-class acts; my only question concerns the venue. Why not run buses to the Exhibition Grounds? Why the neighbourhood invasion of Canada's oldest city park---land designated for the "common use of the inhabitants of peninsular Halifax"? What kind of city council could so detach words from their meanings that "public space" could be interpreted as "for-profit, tax-subsidized events" rather than "public"? ---Kenna Manos, Halifax

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