Well Considered Land Management
Updated: Jun 18, 2022
Towards the end of our winter semester with the kids at Matari Forest School, the local Gwacheon council had committed to plans for developing some of the trails and open spaces on Gwanak mountain.
As they moved in the materials for a new deck, at the playground we use with the kids, we were immediately dismayed.
The loss of this space would hit us quite hard - and we are not the only ones who use the particular location.
On one occasion, when we were playing there, a few representatives from the council were present. They witnessed us playing there, with the kids, and they certainly seemed a little surprised (as far as I could tell); surprised at how well the space was already being utilised.
With the current pandemic, all work ground to a halt, but has resumed recently.
When I heard they were starting with new stairs, I thought it was a good idea. A better trail up to the playground from the stream will help to stop a lot of the bank erosion caused by hikers, especially in the drier months.
The stairs being installed seem like overkill, covering a lot more distance than necessary. I can only assume that some public money had to be spent or forfeit.
The construction of the stairs gave me some false hope that the playground would be left alone, but today we received some bad news.
They will build play facilities on the open space.
When we were told the news today, by another representative from the council, we, along with another elderly park user, expressed dissatisfaction with the plans. He seemed rather indignant at our perceived lack of gratitude. But here is the critical issue, as I see it, we are not happy about being told what to want.
A fixed play installation lacks the versatility of what we, and the location, already offers the children. It also conflicts with our efforts to teach the children the value of the natural environment.
The government officials seem to lack all imagination, and I do not know why there was not more consultation with the park users. This seems like a needless waste of pubic money.
In our sessions with Matari Forest we have transformed that play space into giant works of art, huge labyrinths, zip lines and obstacle courses, to name but a few.
We are not the only forest school to use the area.
And we are not the only demographic to use the venue either.
There are regular elderly visitors to this location who enjoy walking barefoot across the ground here; this particular spot is unique among similar spaces on Gwanaksan.
By building a play area, this spot will then become effectively exclusive for specific groups; the elderly users are potentially going to lose it entirely.
Big changes also effect the behavior of visitors. Right now, it is a shared space that is respected by all who use it. Because it serves different functions for the different visitors, it is cleaned regularly by those of us who do use it - returned after each use to its original state (save for a couple of rope swings).
The addition of a couple of picnic tables has already seen an increase in the amount of litter and trash being left behind.
How a venue is setup certainly affects the amount of littering.
After building a short fence at our meeting area, fly tipping has stopped in that particular spot. However, fly tipping continues a short stretch down the road* , because, from what I assume, there is no obvious owner/custodian of that piece of land. By tidying up around our caravan (it was deserted when covid-19 was at its worst here) we have eliminated the visits made by smokers to this little piece of land - no more cigarette butts now.
So there it is - I wish councils would consult more with the people who use the venues. Ask what people want, instead telling them what they want.
If there is money that needs to be spent, use it to tidy up instead.
If developments need to be made to protect the environment, we can embrace or at the very least accommodate them, but if they are being made for anything less, we are not really psyched about it.
*To the person who keeps dumping the contents of their potted plants, plastic included, near our caravan - if you are reading this - your behavior sucks!