Bernard Goldbach in Cashel, Ireland | 552 words
WE LIVE ON A STREET that belongs to boy racers, not to kids. And that means the kids in our neighbourhood don't have a play street.
I grew up on a play street. We could mark it with chalk and convert it to a hockey rink one day, then change the markings and make it a soccer pitch another day. Cars knew what was happening because drivers would see dozens of bikes on their sides just before the makeshift playspaces started. Those play street days give me pleasant childhood memories.
Not so with the Golden Road in Cashel (in photo). It's surfaced as a national road, crowned to prevent the pooling of water, and striped to encourage a continuous stretch of acceleration for three-quarters of a mile. Using it as a play street would be dangerous.
And yet I believe we need to convert part of the Golden Road into a Play Street. Its surface is perfect for shuffleboard, rollerblading, and bicycle riding. It fits into the Outdoor Childhood Scheme. It needs to be taken back from the boy racers and given to the young kids in the two housing estates split by the road.
When I grew up in Pennsylvania, I learned social skills by adventuring outside in to play spaces. We had a ball with anybody's ball. I know that there are other distractions in the lives of young children today and those hours of daytime TV, video games, and social networks keep them off the streets. Today, kids can amuse themselves without leaving home. I think they suffer creeping obesity as a result.
Community also suffers. In modern Ireland, both parents often work (or try to work). The best opportunity to meet other adults happens through activities shared by kids. If kids mingled in play streets, some parents would be within a straight line of sight, either at a picnic table or looking out from a window.
I'd take the play street scheme even further, if I had clout in Cashel. I'd extend it to a network of trails that curved in and out of pastures, through Hore Abbey, along laneways to quiet streets, and back in a circuit to where the play street started. I'd make a well-marked cycling circuit that kids could use to go from one part of the town to the other. Kids might cycle that circuit or jog it. That's how I got started as a cross-country runner before I turned 13. As things currently stand where I live, distinct parts of Cashel are fiefdoms, rarely visited by people from the other side of town. Connect them with cycling trails and the whole community benefits.
The whole plan starts by taking over a local street and converting it to a play street. But I know most ideas will fall at the first hurdle (i.e., "health and safety") and nothing will come of it. So many evenings, I take a two mile walk with our four-year-old daughter and we make up stories as we walk the Path of the Dead up the Rock of Cashel. We explore the shadows and the gravestones of Hore Abbey. And as we walk along the path, through the pastures and on crushed gravel, I remember my outdoor childhood from years ago, demarcated by play streets.
Ken Armstrong -- "Decline of Outdoor Childhood" on his blog, May 2011.