ANS #19 – Summer Fascination: Road Construction and the Gardens

Who knew that the road construction directly in front of our condo would be more fascinating than frustrating. This summer it’s our turn to have our street torn up for months to replace underground services.

Construction-1Early on, we enjoyed watching drivers blithely ignore the Road Closed sign, then turn around in front of our building. On the side street which is the escape route, someone put up a homemade sign which read: “What don’t you understand about ROAD CLOSED? It means YOU CAN’T GET THROUGH.”

Peering down from our 10th floor windows, I’ve been impressed by the skill of equipment operators, the careful sequencing and the precision needed to find and replace three kinds of pipes.  One morning I opened the blinds and found ten dump trucks lined up.

Construction-2Watching the process, I now understand that four (or maybe five?) persons are actually needed when a huge hole is dug – one to operate the excavator, one to give signals about where to dig,  one or two to descend into the hole to do technical work, and one to direct traffic.

I can only imagine the frustration of construction crews required to provide access for high-rise condo dwellers and nearby medical buildings at all times. It must slow them down considerably. When I arrive on the scene midday and say to the traffic director “I live in that building…how do I get into the parking lot today?” he usually responds “OK, wait just a minute and we’ll move that truck.”

The road construction has given me cheap entertainment and respect for a complex project.

Gardens-1And it hasn’t prevented me from accessing my favourite neighborhood spot for joyful relaxation. I can still cross the street on foot and glimpse the first bursts of colour which signal Rockway Gardens on ahead. Most days my morning walk begins with a stroll through its 4.4 acres of artfully designed annual beds, perennial gardens and rockery.

Two small waterfalls tumble down the rocks, feeding ponds of lily pads. A stone arch and benches suggest places for wedding and other photos to be taken.  Four fountains, a bridge and a gazebo offer more places to pause and enjoy.

On my morning walk, I often see volunteers from the Kitchener Horticultural Society cheerfully at work, planting in spring, early summer and fall, and weeding in between.

I’m amazed at how the gardens show off their beauty both close up and at a distance. The hydrangeas at the top of the rock garden make a striking statement from the road, as do the beds of annuals with their pleasing colour combinations and designs. With more rain than usual this year, everything looks perky and lush, even in late August.

Gardens-2Early in the morning the gardens are restful. At other times, they pulse with energy. On Saturday afternoons, wedding parties jam the narrow roadway. And one Sunday at suppertime, I come upon parents cajoling a toddler to sit for a photo, a woman reading on a bench above the rock garden, two older men conversing in the gazebo, and a young couple emerging from a car with two long-stemmed red roses. They’re joined by dog walkers, by large groups in traditional garb arranging themselves for photos, and by numerous strollers like me.

I’m so grateful that in 1925 the city fathers decided to develop these gardens as a way of welcoming people to Kitchener, scrapping the billboards and gas station previously planned for an old garbage dump site. The flowers, the setting, and the spirit of open community at Rockway Gardens nourish my spirit.

Questions for Reflection

  1. When has an irritant such as road construction become a fascination for you?
  2. Where in your community do you find a welcoming public space to nourish your spirit and that of diverse neighbours?

Next week: Stories I can’t do without.

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