Burnham Park and where to park?

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Shall we do our share in preserving Burnham Park? Time and again, we’ve always been needlessly agitated over what’s taking place at Baguio’s premier promenade place. In fact, every now and then, we’d be quick to add, and holler, our voice to possibly put a bit more sense into what seems to be travesty upon travesty being done from time to time on our most cherished park of bygone memories. Remember when? When Burnham Park was the best place to go for timely rest? For nonchalant recreation? For timely replenishment of deadened energies? For needed refurbishing of dimming recollections? And for everything else that can lead to rejuvenation?

We all have no other civic duty to do but express our anxieties, our certainties and fears, but to do it in a few weeks, time, nothing less than saying it out loud by the power inherently within us. Let’s be reminded, again and again, that we deserve the kind of frustration and disappointment that we feel over Burnham Park’s apparent neglect all through the years when we keep on entrusting its management policies to elected and electable officials who don’t seem to appreciate what not to do and what ought to be done about our cherished park. Let’s be reminded that beyond what we are so used in voicing out our sentiment, whenever something awry just sprouts in that venered place, we can give such flip-flopping policies the thumb’s down on decisive moments such as now.

From trade fairs to carnivals to peryahans masquerading as amusement, name it, everything unseemly, to say the least, had been inflicted on Burnham Park. Baguio folks long dismayed over such travesties should never be inured to accepting plain nonsense explanations why obviously commercialized activities are thrust into our throats. Long regarded fondly as Baguio’s chief fondliest environmental resource, Burnham Park shouldn’t again be entrusted to wishy-washy policy implementors without even a bit of remorse to depredations done, the likes of which have gone unabated, the likes of which couldn’t have possibly taken place in the very first place. Beyond the commerce of man? We should have told that to the Man in the Moon.

Lest we forget, Burnham Park has been our pride of place for inexpensive summer thrills ostensibly for our kids to enjoy, alongside the boatrides at the lake, the bike rides along designated lanes, and other activities where they can run along and play to their heart’s content at peasant’s prices. Just for kids. For many of us who grew up in these parts, going to and spending time at Burnham has always been a source of childish joys, of teenage crushes, of adult frivolities. Every memorable moment frozen in time was a moment at Burnham. For all the quiet introspection and communion with Mother Nature inexpensively spent, all that at Burnham.

Make no mistake about it, Burnham Park itself is something of a pride of place for us residents, who simply desire nothing less than moments of interaction with a natural environment unlike any other anywhere else. It is a public park, yours and mine to keep and cherish, that should be kept as such, not to be part of child’s play mysteries that seem to mysterious minds every now and then. As such, it has to have open space, greenery, trees, flowers, grass as it was originally designed and put in place.

And while we’re at it, we cannot, for the love of Daniel Burnham, understand why talks persist that continue to push for a parking infrastructure at Burnham Park. As we said before, admittedly, there is need for parking spaces that have become too scarce for our urban needs. Far too long has Baguio grappled with the traffic monstrosity that afflicts our day-to-day life. From one point to another, it now takes a minimum of an hour; on special days, weekenders and other run-of-the-mill tourism events, traffic just grinds to a standstill. Concededly, city planners have long identified the severe lack of ample parking spaces as the main cause of the vehicular standoff and clogged-up roads. There’s just not enough parking slots for the horrendous number of vehicles that traverse the main and subsidiary thoroughfares.

Those of us who live through the city’s burdensome traffic clearly understand that one effective way of dealing with the daily traffic jam is to allocate parking slots in areas that are proximate to the city main roads. Yes, make Session Road, Harrison Road, General Luna Road, Magsaysay Avenue, Bonifacio Street free-flowing roadways. Yes, put up parking lots outside of these busy thoroughfares. But why Burnham Park and not elsewhere? Come to think of it, aren’t buildings supposed to have essential basement parking grounds, purposely for the motorized contraptions to use? Last heard, they have been converted into, guess what, commercial spaces?

We heard how voices rose in mighty decibels when Burnham Park was proposed to be the very place where the parking solution would be. Why there, why not any other available lot that the government may acquire? Surely, there are such sites that can readily be used, land spaces that have no historical, cultural and environmental linkages to our life. It’s no wonder that protests have been besieging the social networks, the residents aghast that Burnham Park, Baguio’s premier promenade nature park, would become another environmental travesty. Even old-timers have expressed outrage that such a plan was even considered.

Clearly, the tug-of-war over the Park’s utilitarian functions merely reflects yet another episode between competing interests, that of the economic versus the environmental, the same global issue that prompted the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord by no less than the world’s number one polluter. Burnham Park merely represents yet another man’s or gang’s folly to set aside serious environmental concerns in favor of what can be economically gained today, even if it turns the Park into an environmental wasteland that wreaks havoc on Baguio’s chief allure. Far too long has our environment, fragile as it is now, been abused and degraded. Far too long have residents been clamoring the need, the urgency to protect, preserve, nurture, and regenerate this very environment that is the city’s lifeline, not just from its past, but into the very future that we are readying for generations next.

Clearly, we need to raise our voices in far stronger decibels. We must work in concert to make our leaders act in concert with what is right and sensible. Making Burnham Park a sanctuary of trade fair, carnival, and other vociferous spectacles and soon of motor vehicles that will surely pollute the natural, fresh air within the Park, will serve as a mockery to the very environmental worth of being a nature and promenade area envisioned by its planner. Economically, it may be right for just a few; environmentally, it just isn’t right by any standard. Do what is right come voting time. Forgetting that will make us live through another episode of urban life dismay.