ARE WE doing enough to preserve Burnham Park? Since way, way back, we’ve always been needlessly agitated over what’s taking place at Baguio’s premier promenade place. In fact, back in September, we added our voice to possibly put a bit more sense into what seems to be travesty upon travesty being done on our most cherished park of bygone memories, when Burnham Park was the best place to go for timely rest, recreation, replenishment of deadened energies, refurbishing of dimming recollections, and everything else that can lead to rejuvenation.
Brace up folks, we seem to have lost again, to the city’s policy makers, they who wield the so-called mandate to do what whims and caprice would dictate, over and beyond the call of so-called noble duty. Long regarded fondly as Baguio’s chief environmental resource, Burnham Park has yet again become the undeserved place for a carnival the likes of which no one seems able to predict as to how much disturbance can be bearably endured by promenaders, our visitors and fellow residents alike. This latest infliction would seem to tell Baguio citizens that no matter how much noise they’ll make, it is still the elected and electable who will have their way, regardless how wrong they may be, simply because we may not be speaking out loud enough to be heard?
Now, Burnham Park has to serve as venue for a summer spectacle 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. And we’re not kidding about this latest child’s play from City Hall. How did this come to pass, how did such an obstrusive monstrosity get beyond the head’s-up of the city’s policy makers who seem to have noted none of the ill effects that it would bring about, not to mention the defacement of our park?
Perhaps, there’s something magical in Resolution Numbered 081, series of 2018. In its Regular Session of March 12, 2018, the Honorables adopted the transfer of venue for the conduct of carnival rides they themselves approved in Resolution 045, same year, from Melvyn Jones, Burnham Park to the vacant areas of the Children’s Park and the portion between Abad Santos Drive and Lake Drive, all at Burnham Park. What was decided on was simply to relocate where the Carnival Rides will be allowed, from one area of the Park to another.
Something must be amiss, perhaps it is just us missing it out, when our Honorables had to set aside opposition from no less than the City Environment and Parks Management Office, who cited sanitary issues, gambling, lopsidedly low rental fees for possible damage to the area, not to mention the “possible duplication of existing family-oriented rides being operated by Burnham Park Concessionaires” with whom the city has existing business agreements. And, if we have to add, the fact that 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.
Since it had been now allowed, is it too much to ask our law enforcers to see to it that gambling does not take place in the area. Already, there are reports that bingo and other card game activities are being clandestinely done, right under the pristine noses of those who have allowed it in the first place, perhaps to the chagrin of those who had given the final head’s up. Surely, no parent would desire that his kids are just proximate to where the real play is.
Oldtimers who had long been perplexed over the unregulated commercialization of Burnham Park must be aghast over this latest travesty. 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 engulf City Hall 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.
Let it be admitted that carnival rides are an added summer activity that can be added to a roster of things to do while summer is here and now. But why at Burnham Park is indeed a mystique that has been a befuddlement since way, way back. At the very slightest hint of a venue for things to do, always Burnham Park is the place for these, regardless whether of primal need.
And while we’re at it, we cannot, for the love of Daniel Burnham, understand why they’re still pushing 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?
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. On this Day of Protest, let us work in concert to make our leaders act in concert with what is right and sensible. Making Burnham Park a sanctuary of carnival 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.
After all, doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.