May 29th, 2010

A Missing Peace

A Missing Peace

(Click on thumbnail for full-size image. Link opens in new window.)

A mere few days earlier, everything had been fine. But on April 22nd, I came back to Fremont Central Park to find what you see pictured above: an empty sand pit where a play area used to be, with tire tracks still fresh in the sand.

What was special about that play area, to me, was that it had a pair of swings that were big enough for adults, and tall enough to allow plenty of swinging -- a rare find in most parks I've seen. And anybody who knows me is aware of how special those specific swings had become to me over the years. I first discovered them (and the park) when I lived basically across the street from late 2004 until late 2005. Even in the almost-half-decade since I moved out of Fremont (has it really been that long?), I have frequently returned to that spot, either when passing through Fremont, or just because I needed to get out of the house and find some peace. How many hours I spent on those swings, just pondering, thinking, sorting things out ... it's beyond me to imagine.

The swings were even featured on these "pages" before, namely in the infamous "July 4th falling-off-a-swing-backwards incident" of 2007 ( Despite that less-than-graceful moment, I think it's safe to say that those swings were the one place in the Bay Area that I would reliably go when all else seemed harsh, chaotic, and unknown.

And now they are gone.

I was at a loss to explain the disappearance. There's another play area that was recently built about a quarter of a mile away, but it's clearly designed only with smaller children in mind. Besides, the equipment in the sand pit was by no means old or run-down. It all seemed quite modern and well maintained. And just because you have a new play area doesn't mean you should get rid of another one nearby and leave a gigantic empty sand pit as the only evidence of its passing. "More" generally seems "better" in such matters.

I eventually got around to calling the City of Fremont to ask about this, and after getting bounced around a few departments, I was finally given something resembling an explanation: apparently all the play area equipment, in all the parks across Fremont, is being replaced (reason not provided), and they decided the most efficient way to go about Phase 1 was to rip out all the existing equipment in one shot, even though they have no idea when new equipment is actually going to be installed.

I hope that makes more sense to somebody else than it does to me.

For my part, when I saw the carnage, I felt like a piece of me had been stolen, complete with that sick sensation that comes from knowing something awful just unfolded before your eyes, yet also knowing there's not a damn thing you can do about it.

Yes, in theory, new equipment is coming, but at this rate city governments seem to move, probably not for a long time. Besides, given the trends observable elsewhere in the park, I'm sure the new equipment will lack anything similarly suitable for anybody bigger than a small child.

In any case, the deed is done. What was once there is now gone, and besides, there are some things you simply can't replace.