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Letter: Green spaces are more prized than buildings to a city
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Regarding the Enota Elementary School Garden controversy, I would hope that the powers that be consider the arguments made by Gainesville citizens in favor of redesigning the proposed building to conserve the garden as is.

Over the years, through the efforts of progressive visionaries, planners and preservationists, Gainesville has done many things right. Our downtown square is an asset, a vibrant green space bordered by thriving businesses and fueled by activities inviting community interaction. Parks and greenways abound. Community gardens like Gardens on Green, the Linwood Nature Preserve and the Wilshire Park Butterfly Garden enhance the lives of children and adults alike.

Green space is woven through the fabric of our city, and has helped to make us who we are. Places to interact with nature, to relax and meditate, to learn and grow and experience are vital for our physical, mental and spiritual well-being. These spaces are just as important as the buildings in which we live, work and learn.

Michael Kimmelman said it best in a July 30, 2014, article in the New York Times about a proposed expansion of the Frick Art Museum, which would destroy a garden designed by landscape architect Russell Page: “Landscape preservationists, architects and others are rallying around the garden for good reason. They’ve been pleading for years that buildings shouldn’t trump spaces around them. Great public places and works of landscape architecture deserve to be treated like great buildings. They’re right.”

As it turns out, officials of the Frick museum listened to citizens’ concerns, redesigned their ill-conceived expansion and saved the garden. (“’New York Times’ Reports Frick Collection’s Board Backs Down Over Plans to Destroy Garden” — Artnet News, June 4, 2014).

If New York can preserve a garden space its citizens deem important for the enhancement of their city and their everyday lives, so can Gainesville. Or at least take time to explore potential alternatives. Maybe there’s a way we can have our cake and eat it, too.

Community gardens, open space corridors, urban greenery these are the arteries of our culture and community, carrying the lifeblood necessary for us to thrive, straight from the heart of nature. Don’t believe it? Try living in a sterile urban environment, a concrete jungle, a city with no parks or green spaces. Which would you rather call home?

We shouldn’t rush to a decision we, as a community, may regret later. Let our consultants flex their design muscles, go back to the drawing board, and design an education facility that we all can be proud of.

One day the same children that now attend Enota and our other schools will inherit our city and the responsibilities that go along with it. We should leave them with a positive message: Plan wisely. The immediate concerns of the present need not compromise our future.

Rick Freeland

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