The other side of the fence

By Ivan Morgan \ May 12. 2023

My grandfather was Lieutenant-Governor back in the late 1950s, early 60’s. When I was a wee thing my mom and I often stayed with my grandparents at Government House when my dad was away on business.

My life has been a slow slide downhill ever since.

I was only three, so I don’t remember much, but I do remember the grounds. They were as beautiful as they are today. I also remember how upset my grandmother (who was very grand) got when regular folks walked around on the property. No matter that people were legally allowed to do so, she demanded the cops shoo them away. After all, she would say, you can’t have just anyone wandering about.

Well, yes you can.

One of the things that really irks me about Newfoundlanders is our legacy of deference. We were once a very deferential people, always making sure we curtsied and bowed to our social betters. My grandmother (who, despite herself, I loved dearly) expected it.

To me one of the symbols of this legacy is the fence on Bannerman Street stopping people from using the giant lawn behind Government House. It’s a huge green space just sitting there, empty and fenced in, year after year, while throngs crowd Bannerman Park on hot summer afternoons.

We pay for it, yet it remains inaccessible. Technically you are allowed to wander the grounds, but it isn’t inviting. I wander through Bannerman Park in the summer, and see people picnicking, playing Frisbee, hanging hammocks and reading, or just sunbathing.  And right across the street is a huge lawn, fenced in, empty and unused. Paid for by you, the taxpayer. Am I making my point?

Why don’t people demand that the fence be removed so folks can have access to the grounds? Why is it taken for granted that huge unused space, supported by us, isn’t for us?  What is it about us that allows this to happen?

This is expensive real estate maintained at public expense which I promise you developers are drooling over. They will ask politicians: Do you want a park with an expensive maintenance bill or sell us the land so we can build executive homes with a juicy tax base? Look what’s happening at Bally Haly.

The Premier, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court live in their own homes. Why do we keep a residence for a politically appointed King’s rep, at great expense, when it should be a large green space in the middle of the city for all to enjoy? Hell, the house was drafty and musty when I stayed there six decades ago!

I remember standing in the middle of another park – Central Park in New York City – on a cold winter’s night. I was basically in the middle of a forest smack dab in the middle of that massive, noisy, vibrant city thinking “Boy, was this ever a good idea.”

A big park in the middle of the city is a good idea. People need green space. Children need green space. There’s oodles of green space just sitting there across the street from Bannerman Park. Even if nothing more was done than the fence was taken down, and signs were put up telling people they can use the space, that would be a huge thing.

I am willing to bet the new King would be on my side.

Bannerman Park is lovely, but why not double its size? I have heard people say it would be too expensive. It would soon be covered in garbage. It would be too hard to protect. It would be trampled and destroyed. Don’t you understand the province owns it. Blah blah blah. Are these problems for the existing Bannerman Park?

So why not pressure your local politicians to make it happen? It would be a good thing.

Or maybe you are happy just paying for an inaccessible green space in the middle of the city for your social betters to enjoy.

Just sayin’.

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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