Probably 20 years ago or so I remember reading a letter to the editor of our local paper written by a prominent citizen who was moving away. He was happy to be moving on but ambivalent, too, writing that he would miss Los Alamos because it was maybe the only place where something as insignificant as the moving of a crosswalk could lead to social unrest.
It was a place where little things mattered — a lot. Yesterday an old friend called and wanted to meet for a walk. We are the last two members of the Walnut Street Playgroup, which disbanded last spring after almost twenty years of fun. Its dozens of members had all either grown up or moved away. She was upset because the playlots we loved are being renovated in the name of safety and current playlot “theories” by yet another county official. Her youngest still hangs out at the 37th Street Playlot where the swings and fences are due for removal.
The swings are now considered just too dangerous. When complaints were made about their removal they fell on deaf ears. Even though older kids and teenagers looking for a peaceful local hangout enjoyed the swings, neighbors were told they needed to go because 37th Street is officially designated as a tot lot which makes the other major alteration to the playlot that much more ludicrous. The fences at both 37th and Walnut are scheduled for removal because of the evolving ethos that parks should “look” natural and trees should grow unencumbered.
I feel I have probably spent more time at local parks than anyone else I know and the removal of fences scares me. They keep big dogs away from little kids. They act as a rite of passage — who doesn’t remember the big smile in all the little faces when our four or five year olds were finally allowed to cross the fence to ride sleds in the winter or look for lizards in the summer?
Is it really asking too much to expect our local government to take our concerns about our playlots into consideration? If major changes are being considered could a public meeting be held? Both of these playlots have been renovated twice since my oldest child was born in 1999 but these changes only came about after well publicized public meetings with ample neighborhood input.
What has changed? Why have the county officials become so secretive and authoritarian? The article in the Los Alamos Daily Post this morning about a local citizen who for reasons of health is unable to keep his house up to code further argues this point. What will happen when the current moratorium ends? Will the county’s band of inspectors return to the streets to cruise and harass the citizenry?
I loved the chief inspectors argument that any reasonable person should be able to get roof repairs done in a day or two. He made the exact same argument early last November at a meeting about county code enforcement at UNM-LA when an older man asked how he would ever be able to get concrete work done during the colder months. The inspector insisted all you needed to do was find someone to set up something like a tent with giant warm fans or something — it sounded a bit far fetched. I also found it hilarious because I could only imagine the look on the county’s construction boss’ face had I suggested they fix the concrete they smashed on top of my driveway last year during the Camino Uva reconstruction with the use of tents and giant fans. They have that special stare I think they save expressly for housewives they feel are tedious.
The Los Alamos I first drove into almost thirty years ago this summer was a place where little things really did matter. I wish the county council and staff would respect our concerns. We love our playlots, parks, and pools. We voted to keep our sheriff and expect he be funded. We wish our local police chief would keep our crosswalks and bike lanes safe. We wish to be heard.