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Trinidad and Tobago

Dear Editor: Our children deserve better than Nelson Mandela Park

“I spare no disdain for whatever incompetent city administrator, whose responsibility it is to procure, maintain and provide green space to the inner city and its children, offers us Mandela Play Park. […] And I feel so very angry that city administrators believe that this is all our children are entitled to—that this is the best that we can do for our children with public funds.”

The following Letter to the Editor on the condition of the Mandela Play Park was submitted to Wired868 by Christlyn Moore from Port of Spain:

Photo: Nelson Mandela Park, Port of Spain via ttcityentertainment.blogspot.com

Since growing up in Tobago, I tend to take green space for granted. As a child, I was blessed with a large yard dominated by a giant guava tree and several coconut trees all over 20 feet tall. My brother hunted pigeons and doves in our back yard, and we could set a crab trap at our front step and wait for the bugger to emerge and be cooked. Strangers pastured their sheep and goats in our vast yard, and we had pet lammies and kiddies that were never ours to keep.

Neighboring properties teemed with a variety of fruit and were an extension of our childhood domain. Over at Mr. Oliver’s, we had an orchard of julie and little par mangoes, sugar cane and golden apples, green plums and red plums, grapefruit and sapodillas.  Miss Dora’s yard had more starch mangoes (and the occasional setting-fowl egg). It was Miss Florence for sapodillas; Miss Bobb for red cherries and Tantie Nicey for yellow cherries. Heaven.

A spring in our yard would erupt during the rainy season, running over a stack of smooth stones as it made its way through. At the base of these stones was a convenient pool just large enough to hold a 4-year-old when it rained. Bliss.

And although I was banned from swimming — and still cannot to this day— living 100 yards from the beach imprinted the sound, sight and smell of the sea in me. Home.

Though my daughter visits Tobago monthly, my green childhood world is not hers, and that is in part why I took her to the Mandela Play Park in Port of Spain last Sunday for the first time. Quelle horreur.

I spare no disdain for whatever incompetent city administrator, whose responsibility it is to procure, maintain and provide green space to the inner city and its children, offers us Mandela Play Park.

Photo: Nelson Mandela Park, Port of Spain via ttcityentertainment.blogspot.com

The first thing that strikes you is that in the space provided for six swings, only three are working, and one of those has a jutting edge that pinches the child’s thigh. How hard is it to maintain a bloody swing for God’s sake?

Despite our grinding poverty, my mother managed to buy and install a swing and slide set in the yard that was used and enjoyed by random children as we lived 200 meters from the village primary school. Half the time we couldn’t get a space on our own swing—but never because it was broken!

Then there is the slide (one of only four) with a massive hole—a crater really. It is so unfit for use that people have started to use it to store garbage. What?

At the base of two of the remaining slides, there is a puddle of water waiting for the unwary child. But under one of these slides, some soul has helpfully placed two large concrete bricks to counteract the puddle. Helpful, eh?

The grass in the play park is in need of cutting, the hawkers in need of chasing, the fake grass in need of changing. And while we are at it, could someone replace the broken seat on the see-saw?

I feel bad for the children whose only experience with green space is this park, so poorly attended and carelessly handled. I feel bad for the parents whose only reprieve is this near hellscape that to them may appear normal because what is there to benchmark it against? And what are their alternatives?

And I feel so very angry that city administrators believe that this is all our children are entitled to—that this is the best that we can do for our children with public funds.

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ICO