Don't take it out on the trees
If Rockland policy was determined in the court of public opinion, it's safe to say the Brass Compass Cafe would have tables out in the Winslow-Holbrook Memorial Park.
We have received numerous comments online and a few letters. The majority of those commenting and writing favor allowing the use of the tables in the park to support the local restaurant.
We have also received a call from a citizen wondering why it is not OK for Brass Compass to have a few tables, but it is permissible to construct cardboard huts across the street at another park to bring about community awareness of homelessness.
On the surface, it certainly appears the city is doing all it can to make life difficult for downtown businesses. At the park that has become the center of the controversy, workers showed up Tuesday and sawed all the limbs off one aspen tree, leaving a denuded, stark trunk behind. We heard late in the afternoon they later finished the job taking the tree down completely.
An arborist had determined there were too many trees in the park, competing with each other in an unhealthy way, according to City Manager James Smith. One of the trees had to be removed. He said the Parks Commission was consulted two weeks ago and suggested the tree next to the Brass Compass was the most appropriate one to remove. The good news is the city does not plan to remove any other trees.
Meanwhile, the big dig has returned with its tractors, ripped up pavement and "road closed" signs at the same time the sun arrived in the community. This is the time the Main Street businesses need to be making their money from tourists to get through the slow winter months.
What also is not sitting well with the populace is the fact that the city is launching an up to $35,000 park improvement project in the midst of the annual controversy of Lynn Archer's desire to feed people in the park. In the eyes of some observers, the city has turned something that was making money into something that is costing money — going from a plus to a minus.
The city and those who disagree with Brass Compass using the park have some valid points. Archer doesn't own the park, and if she's allowed to use it, why couldn't every other business on Main Street set up a booth there? In addition, the park should be available for the use of everyone, no just people using the restaurant.
On the other hand, the Brass Compass is willing to buy some of the property and has been willing to pay for the use of it. It also has been argued it's nicer to see people enjoying eating outdoors as you come into the downtown than to see a deserted park.
The city council has been inconsistent and indecisive. Instead of crafting one long-term policy on the use of the park and sticking to it, it has made this an annual controversy. One year it is fair and reasonable for the Compass to use the park. Another it is not.
For her part, Archer said she is willing to come to the table and negotiate with the city. Perhaps she would have been willing to fund improvements to the park, taking the burden off taxpayers, in return for the right to use part of it. Perhaps she would be willing to do something special to honor the veterans there every year. It's possible this negative situation could be turned into a positive if the parties involved let go of their pride and their need to be right and figure out a way to work together.
Memorial Day, a teachable moment
Monday, May 28 is Memorial Day, and it provides an opportunity for parents, grandparents, teachers, scout leaders and coaches to teach children about honoring the memory of veterans who died defending the United States.
It is good to see scouts and children who play instruments in bands standing at veterans memorials in local communities, lending their time and talent to remembrance ceremonies. Often, young people read the Gettysburg Address to a group of community members including parents and grandparents.
It is a time of sober reflection for those old enough to understand the meaning of sacrifice.
Take a few minutes to talk to the young person in your life about your values and your thoughts about this time of year. This can happen on the drive to the parade or while working together to place a flag or flower on a veteran's grave.