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Editorial: Protect Pippy, a true jewel

Couch in a marsh, Pippy Park, Sept. 1
Couch in a marsh, Pippy Park, Sept. 1

Ah, early fall, when the fringes of Pippy Park bloom with the blossoms of the discarded furniture plant …

Friday, it was a beige couch, perched ever-so-neatly in a roadside bog, an installation piece demonstrating how even a jewel is not immune to the uncaring among us.

And Pippy Park truly is a jewel.

This time of year, the miles of back trails are alive with dog walkers, on leash and off, hikers, mountain bikers and their strange cousins, the fat-tire all-terrain bikers, with berry pickers and families trailing ragged lines of tired children.

It’s used in almost every season: there have been maple-tapping programs, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking on a variety of trails — from gravel pathways with boardwalk crossings of bog to meandering foot-paths — and everything from mushroom foragers to runners challenging themselves with hill-trail outings.

Wild enough for moose and rabbits, the park is, by the standards of any city, huge. At 3,400 acres, the land reserve is one of the largest urban parks in Canada, a large portion of it purchased as the result of a cash donation from Chesley A. Pippy.

While it’s clear that it is well used, that doesn’t mean it’s always well treated.

There are abandoned bags of dog feces flung into the woods, the too-regular tissue and chip bag, the ragged paths that lead to teen party hangouts. There are stone circles with quenched bonfires, trails battered into soupy mud by overuse, clandestine smoking corners near the Health Sciences Complex that are coated with a carpet of cigarette butts.

There are cut trees and, in some spots, even tire-fire bonfires — out of the way paths started by curious park-goers become rocky runoffs etched by heavy rains.

In short, the park is a victim of its own success.

Overseen by an appointed commission and a handful of employees, the sheer size of the park makes it a big responsibility — and they can only handle so much.

Looking around the edges of St. John’s, you can only imagine how lucky we are that the property came into the hands of a government commission when it did.

If it hadn’t, its likely fate would have been to become even more acres and acres of subdivision housing, complete with the trendy street names that developers come up with to try to attach their developments with the history and fabric of this place.

How spectacular it is that we can instead connect directly with this place, with spruce and fir woods, with hilltop reindeer moss barrens, with streams and ponds and sunbaked marsh.

The simple fact is that it would never be created now.

So use it well, and use it carefully: respect what we’re lucky enough to have inherited. Pick things up, leave the place as you found it, and take your old furniture to a different municipal institution.

The dump. It’s really not that hard.

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