Welcome Spring Around the Common!

FHC’s 2014 photographic exhibition “Parking the Common” found 20-25% of the Common is parking, a private use of public space. Making the Common Halifax’s first car free zone would be an investment in our future. Imagine Central Park as you walk the 4km perimeter to welcome Spring! Cunard, North Park, Ahern, South Park, South, Robie.

Why not welcome Spring with a walk around the Common?  The perimeter  is ~4km and it takes ~1 hour to circumnavigate. Until now public directives telling us to stay at home to help flatten the COVID-19 curve have not banned being outside. That’s lucky, as while our society prioritizes health benefits associated with rigorous physical activity – sports, running, gym-workouts – having regular outdoor time has important physical and mental health benefits such as reducing anxiety, stress and negative emotions; improving memory, immunity, healing, focus, vision, longevity; and managing weight or growing food! See FHC bibliography greenspace

Remember to respect the 2m social distancing directive as many countries have shut parks because people were mingling too close to each other so no up-close encounters, touch football or soccer.  But do feel free to make eye contact or even smile or say hello to strangers – among the many acts of kindness that citizens are undertaking this one is cheap and easy.

We need more public space. Although HRM plans to add 15-30,000 new residents to the Centre Plan area there are no new parks planned, and no network of green walking and cycling routes between exiting public open space. This isn’t a matter to be left up to developers, it is a matter of life or death. The COVID-19 pandemic will prove once more that we need nature more than nature needs us. St Pat’s, the Memorial Library, Bloomfield, the Centennial Swimming Pool lands and the Wanderers’ Grounds are important HRM public spaces which mustn’t be privatized. A car-free Halifax Common would return dozens of acres of greenspace.

We thank our leaders and health care workers among many for their effort to avert this health crisis. It is encouraging that they’ve begun to think and act with society’s most vulnerable in mind. But the climate crisis pandemic has already arrived. It is already costing hundreds of millions a year in deaths and disasters and the most disadvantaged are the most vulnerable. We need to make the present COVID-19 crisis be the time to reflect on how to invest in our collective future. May social distancing give us pause for social re-prioritizating as we work together for more common and less private cause.