WHAT CAN we do to protect, preserve, nurture and regenerate Burnham Park?
Amid the controversy spawned by hare-brained proposals to put up a parking-cum-mall establishment, said to rise four-storey high at the Old Auditorium section of Burnham Park, it may do well to look at new suggestions on how exactly do we upgrade Baguio’s long-cherished promenade and nature park, without having to logger heads over the parking issue. After all, a parking space can be sited elsewhere, far off from the only remaining open area that has long served as the precious lung downtown.
Off hand, we should start with the Don’ts that have been enshrined in several policy directions that City Hall has issued over the years, guidelines that have unfortunately been breached every now and then for purely pragmatic considerations. They need to be reiterated if only to remind ourselves that the Park must be respected for what it ought to be since time immemorial, that it is first and foremost a public open space where everyone, residents and visitors alike, can go to for invaluable moments of interaction, of reflection, of replenishment, of restoration.
In ringing definiteness, we must holler a deafening No to trade fairs and other cheap and vulgar marketplace activities that have historically been responsible for the seasonal defacement of the Park. Time and again, Burnham Park seems to be the only venue that can serve the undisguised money-making avarice which Baguio-style trade fairs have degenerated into all through the years. Time and again, city folks have objected to these activities at the Park, citing the irreparable damage to the all-around greenery meticulously cared for all year round.
In equally loud decibels, we must yell out a resolute No to carnival-oriented amusement activities that have recently been unfortunately allowed at the Park. Why these were given the head’s up, despite and over the reasonable issues on public health and safety, gambling, and undue business competition to existing concessionaires, is among the befuddling mysteries gripping public attention. The fun-rides equipment installed in the carnival area were a far cry to what public safety standards demand, exposing the users, our children no less, to unnecessary physical peril.
Now, let’s run through what can be done without having to go through the proverbial gauntlet of any public controversy. How about setting up urban garden places in viable sites within the park, viable in the sense of defusing the concrete ambience discernible from physical structures that have sprouted? The old Auditorium section, which has for years now served as an outdoor parking area, can definitely be upgraded to look a bit greener than what it is now, a hodge-podge of toxic-emitting vehicles, from which parking revenues are drawn for added maintenance money.
It is worth noting that in progressive and developing cities elsewhere in the world, we have often been regaled by the lush ambience of floral resources nurtured from the ground up. Surely, globetrotting policy makers must have noticed these visual attractions and quietly wished for their reincarnation hereabouts. Surely, these lush gardens would not command the stiff price of P800 million to put up in 6 months to a year, perhaps just a single percent of that for us to have an added allure to the Park.
And since the Park is a paramount promenade place, where families go to in memorable bonding times, it is just well worth it if we can add more picnic tables and benches in more sections where picnickers can gravitate and gestate. Family days must be fostered at the Park and allocating more on-the-ground spaces would help nurture closer family affections. The Park is for people and staying anywhere within it must be geared towards encouraging people as against vehicular mobility.
These are just a few things that come off-the-cuff. To be sure, there are other “small” things that anyone can wish for if we are to preserve and protect Burnham Park, and safeguard its use for anti-people purposes.
There must be welcomed encourage for others to think more how we can nurture, and even regenerate Baguio’s long cherished promenade park, given its historical, cultural and environmental importance to a city that prides itself as every Filipino family’s dream summer place.
What must be a firm resolve is for everyone, both the governing and the governed, to reject any further defacement and debauchery that time and again are inflicted on Burnham Park. We’re supposed to keep the park’s character unfettered and overwhelmed by hard infrastructures that only serve purely business interests, no matter how good business it may be to a few. We’re supposed to do everything right for the only place that has served as Baguio’s lung amid the daily bombardment of toxic fumes. This we can only do by doing what is essentially right.
It is time for us city folks to decline being taken for a ride down the road of perdition, as exemplified by the mystifying decisions whenever Burnham Park’s future is staked out on the line. It is time that we are reconnected to our past and bridge it across the many more lifeyears ahead, untorn by what we allow to be done by our grim indifference or petty inaction. That future will remain unsettling for generations next if their linkage to history, culture, and environment is glossed over and eventually set aside.
It is time for everyone to now affirm “time’s up!”