Iron gate with grass and trees on one side and big building with a lot of windows on the other side

I attended two of the three Pro Musica concerts held in the Franklin Park Conservatory gardens over August 8-11. Both concerts were lovely and distinct. The weather, the moon, stars and the jewel-like lighting in the glass conservatory building behind the stage created a magical, exquisite experience.

I want to thank the Franklin Park Conservatory, Pro Musica leaders, musicians and sponsors who made this event free and open to the public.

You see, the last time I attended this music series, there was no tall, black cast-iron fence surrounding the gardens of the Conservatory.  And if you are like me, the fence/wall came as a fist in the gut.

The first time I saw the fence/wall, I was shocked, angered and saddened at the same time.  It circles the conservatory, encompasses the entire west garden, the silver sails fountain and extends all the way back to the Adventure Center parking lot.  It appeared at the same time POTUS was trumpeting his border wall to lock out “criminals”.

Who owns Franklin Park?  Is it a public park?  Is it private?  Is it leased?  I don’t know.  I just know I’ve been coming here for over 60 years.

We came with our parents in the 60’s on cold winter weekends to escape into misty, cool, tropical rain forests.  As a young adult living in New York City, I attended Ameriflora, again with my parents.  It was beautiful, but the extended event had, at the same time, taken local residents’ use of their park away.  A few years later I moved back to Columbus and was hired to provide performers for an extravagant United Way Gala held in the Adventure Center in Franklin Park.  And later I rented the large open amphitheater next to the Adventure Center, to rehearse New World Navigator, an original show we put up on the politically fraught Santa Maria, which was then duly protested by Native Americans and their allies on Columbus Day.  A huge awakening for me.

Then we brought our kids, again during the winter months to run free, hang out with the coy fish, take in a dash in the tropics, or dry warm desert and …. butterflies.  I met friends weekly to walk the mile loop, taking in the voluptuous tulip bloom, the cascading stream (when it was running), the fisher men/women/kids, marshall art classes, dogs, walkers, runners, and shade of the sprawling deciduous trees.  When the Pottager Garden was built in the southeast corner, it was an upgrade, although the corporate sponsorship is troubling for any water, air, soil activist.  Never-the-less we could still walk through it, no locked fence/wall to keep us out.

In the summer of 2016 I again rented the open Amphitheatre for a public concert and gathering of local activists when the #UPtoUS caravan came through on their way to Philadelphia.  It was a communal gathering, bands gave their talent freely and local organizers shared their efforts, all on a balmy mid-summer night.

Ten days ago, August 10, we took my 90-year mom and dad to the Saturday night Pro Musica concert.  It was all Mozart - comedic, operatic, dramatic.  We people-watched, sipped cold drinks and listened to the music soar al fresco inside the opened gates of the fenced/walled Franklin Park garden.

Dad told us about two historical events that took place in the park.  One, close to our family’s heritage, Ellen G. White, the founding leader of the Seventh-day-Adventist church, spoke at a tent revival meeting, in the park, back in the mid 1800’s.  And the second, when Lancaster-born General William Tecumseh Sherman gave his famous speech, August 11, 1880, in the rain in Franklin Park to 10,000 civil war vets, “….There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.  You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come.  I look upon war with horror, but if it has to come, I am there”.

I shared my feelings about the newly erected fence/wall with my folks.  They understand.

Franklin Park is the Gem of Columbus.  We are sad and angry to be locked out of the park we have grown up with, grown to love and call our own.

What can be done with this fence/wall?  Can we ignore it?  Can we tear it down?  Can we transform it?

Some public parks and gardens have fences/walls - with gates;  gates that open to the public the majority of daylight hours.  Franklin Park Conservatory could have private and monetized events, and then again Open up the Gates to We, the People.

Green Space, Parks, Communal land is healing, inspiring, life-giving for children, parents, grandparents, great grandparents........Generations.

Open Up the Gates.