Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

Eagle Scouts to the rescue?

Root Commons, Eagle Scouts, Eschweiler Buildings, community development

Daughter Liz and I spent some pleasant Saturday hours at Tosa Fest, munching sweet potato fries and sipping Chimay white ale on the edge of the Menomonee River. We met some old friends, relished Paul Cebar's music, and picked up Save the Eschweilers yard signs.

If walking around Wauwatosa's village doesn't remind you of the delight and importance of preserving history and the places it happened, not much will.

Some fine work has been done on some of the old buildings there. Interesting businesses are growing roots, while new ones are sprouting because the area's attractive and there's foot traffic, the key to prosperity in villages.

But our hearts sank  we came upon  Root Commons. Even the road signs are askew. Mostly hard dirt now, the ground is oddly pitched, with a wooden picnic table dropped here, a random Port-a-Potty sitting alone there at a rakish or alarming angle, depending on how much history you have with outhouse tippage. I suspect the one cheerful note, a popcorn wagon, was less than delighted to find itself parked next door to a potty.

The commons used to be a real gathering place, with a central structure, grass, and seasonal plantings. Long before that it was the village green, just down the road from the first public school built in the city. Whatever it is now seems to have just happened, a combination of small attempts and large neglect. It's an eyesore. An embarrassment to a city trying to stay upscale.

That's what happens when you don't take care of things.

In 2007 the Community Development Committee passed Resolution R-07-94 for a proposed improvement project plan, subject to approval by many folks. Was tearing down what was there the extent of the plan? I doubt it.

Parks Board minutes from August 21st of this year note that they currently are waiting for central scouts office funding for an Eagle Scout project to fix the park, and that a mason will be around to supervise the work. No plan or description is available. Apparently this will happen sometime after the scouts finish another project, replacing a fence on 68th Street. Who knew we were outsourcing construction projects to children in search of community service and merit badges?

My enthusiasm for the nobility of volunteers is a little tempered by the belief that this pocket park needs to be a village centerpiece, not an after-thought. It's a big job. I hope the scouts are up to it.

Of course, it will take more than Eagle Scouts to save the Eschweilers. Maybe a couple former Eagle Scout, current millionaires. Though it really seems we should be able to steer our own civic destiny, make a smart investment in oursleves and our future, without having to depend entirely on good deeds and individual charity.

How many more festival seasons will come and go before something good happens to Root Commons?


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