From a Park to a Plan

September has been overcast nearly every day since we arrived nearly two weeks ago. Some locals have taken to wearing sweaters and jackets and making mock shivers when the say ‘Esta frio (It’s cold)!” But most continue to wear T-shirts as Judy and I do who feel that it’s pretty reasonable weather for San Franciscans. It reminds me of the opposite sweating and immobilized reaction that I have to January’s heat which most residents tolerate sufficiently that they can still walk around. This grey weather is actually incomparable for working outside. If it lasts a few weeks after our assistants arrive tomorrow, we’ll have an easier time accomplishing some of the heavy labor involved with moving fallen brush out of the way to dig steps for paths that will run through the revegetation site that we now call Bosque en las Ruinas (Forest in the Ruins).

Jacob Santos and I met with the agreeable city planner Ramon Farias to create a procedure for writing the first draft of a new ordinance officially establishing Bosque en las Ruinas as a “wild corridor” city park in Maria Auxiliadora barrio. Hopefully, Jacob and I can do this within a week and present it for his review, after which it goes to the city council. There’s a new national civil defense disaster preparedness map of earthquake and mud slide prone areas in Canton Sucre where Bahia de Caraquez is located. Three increasingly dark shades of red show danger levels from low to high threat (amenaza alta). Maria Auxiliadora is darkest red, affirming that the choice we made intuitively to initiate erosion reduction work there was correct. By recognizing that the site has the highest peril in a geological catastrophe, this report has handed us one of the main arguments we will use to support the ordinance. Namely, there is no more appropriate use for the land than a park because it is too unsafe for houses or other construction. Additional arguments will include the revegetation work to restore native habitat and species that has already been done, the instructional value of plaques we intend to make for identifying plant species along walking paths, the lasting tribute that the stark ruins will represent for the sixteen people who died there, and the symbol that the Forest in the Ruins will represent for the community’s overall efforts to overcome adversity There need to be precautions about avoiding parts of some ruins because they contain hidden holes that were formerly underneath or beside fallen houses. It was stepping in one up to my crotch and the lost leg dangling without touching bottom that made this point glare like a white plaster cast. I quickly explained to Ramon that the entire site didn’t need be put off limits because of a few small areas that could be avoided by our paths and marked, filled in, or fenced. Even ancient ruins that get thousands of sight-seers have restricted areas. I requested that someone from the planning department make an examination to identify the potentially unsafe spots, and I will accompany his assistant to do this tomorrow.

When meeting with the new mayor Leonardo Viteri (“Dr. Leo”) about the proposed park ordinance, I optimistically suggested that his fresh four-year term of office could begin with a thorough-going plan to fulfill the mandate of 1999’s Ecological City Declaration. (See “Model Law.”) The plan would cover changes in fundamental areas such as water, energy, transportation, and others over short, medium and long range stages of time. He suggested an informal dinner meeting within a few days with some principals in the eco-ciudad process to get different perspectives. It could take place as early as next week so I’ve begun distributing a suggested framework for the plan that follows. It’s meant mainly as a quick introduction to the discussion and as a guide for eliciting suggestions and comments.

An important confession to readers. Drawing up a list of desirable alternatives to the present grossly unsustainable condition of cities is nearly as easy as getting mad in a traffic jam. It can also be as unworthwhile. Any plan eventually involves many more people than the initial planners. Unless the majority of the residents in Bahia, regardless of their social or economic positions, welcome and animate this ecological wish list, it won’t be realized. The greatest obstacle is exclusion.

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