This is addressed to my fellow citizens of Aldergrove. I’ve lived here and taught and coached at Aldergrove Secondary for nearly a decade. Aldergrove is my home. And for all the complaints and criticism I hear from people who live within Aldergrove and without, I love it here. There is a strong sense of community that binds many of us together. But lately, I’ve seen that another crucial component is missing: pride.
I see it in the mattresses dumped on the corner of 268th and Fraser Highway. I see it in the garbage can at Vanetta Park, overflowing with household waste. I see it in the ignorance of people allowing their dogs to run off leash on the high school playing field, and leaving countless piles of dog mess behind, to be picked up by me or one of our student volunteers so that our athletes don’t have to run through or be tackled in to dog feces. I see it in the clothing donation bins being broken in to and the clothing scattered all over the school grounds. I see it in the senseless graffiti scrawled on the benches and shelters at soccer fields and baseball diamonds. I see it in the random vandalism to our public pool.
A couple of years ago, I decided to take this problem on, and do what I could to help instill some pride in our community. I spent hundreds of hours securing money, applying for grants, and planning to improve our school grounds. To be clear, this was not a school district initiative, undertaken with your tax dollars; this was started by someone who lives and works here, who loves the community, going out and working extremely hard to make this a better place for everyone.
Last spring, led by our excellent school district grounds staff, we installed a new garden of indigenous plants with walking paths at the end of the north wing of the secondary school. Several shrubs were ripped out of this garden and thrown on the ground, only days after they were planted.
We replanted those shrubs.
Our hairdressing program, so often the example of good citizenship in our school and our community, raised funds to restore the benches and planters outside their classroom and studio. The students themselves painted fabulous murals on the concrete planters, and we planted them with gorgeous rose bushes. The rose bushes were dug out and stolen. We bought and planted new roses. Those were stolen too. Nearly out of money, this year we opted to buy some pretty blue fescue grasses. These have been stolen as well. Over the past summer, the murals on the planters were vandalized.
We will repair the damage.
This year, we created an outdoor classroom space just to the east of the north wing, with natural stone tables and stools, more indigenous garden beds, and a beautiful young Garry oak tree. Within days of the outdoor classroom project’s completion, some disgusting and feckless cretin had scratched swastikas in to the table tops. These were promptly removed, only to have further vandalism done to the tables last week, with more graffiti and glass smashed about. I came in to work this Monday hoping that things would be in good shape, only to find that over the weekend someone with more time than brains had uprooted the 4-meter-tall Garry oak and cast it aside like trash.
We replanted the oak, and I hope it will survive.
For those who subscribe to the tired line, “There needs to be more for kids to do in this community,” this line of thinking is outdated and wrong. Despite what some naysayers would have you believe, we are well served as a community. First, I have no idea if kids are behind all of these issues. Perhaps some of it is perpetuated by youth, but I see a lot of incredible kids every single day at work, and they are as disheartened as I am. In any case, I don’t see a lot of teens taking such a keen interest in horticulture that they’d steal multiple rose bushes.
Second, the problem is not a lack of opportunity for recreation; it is people making terrible choices. Rather than spend time vandalizing and destroying the work of others, people of all ages could choose to go for a walk at Aldergrove Park, play soccer, or football, or baseball at South Aldergrove Athletic Park, maintain a garden plot at the community garden, use the skate park, use the mountain bike park, play on one of the countless playgrounds within walking distance of almost anywhere, throw a Frisbee around, join a sports team at their school or in the community, play tennis, use the outdoor hockey box, play basketball on the outdoor courts, patronize a local café or restaurant, take up a hobby like knitting or carving, read a book, spend time at the library, go bowling…the possibilities are nearly endless. If none of these choices appeal to someone, there are literally dozens, if not hundreds, of other options to spend leisure time on, many of which cost nothing or very little. Don’t excuse the appalling behaviour of people by saying it’s the community’s responsibility to ensure their time is accounted for.
I suppose my message is threefold. One, please say something if you see someone not treating our community with the pride and respect it deserves. It’s no coincidence that many of these cowardly acts take place under the cover of darkness, but if you see something, say something.
Two, I refuse to give up. I love my community, and I will continue to fight for it and do what I can to improve it for the people love to live and work here. There is not an infinite pile of money and time to draw from in order to keep going back and fixing the mess of people who don’t care, but I refuse to give in to those who mindlessly destroy what is good and beautiful. You can tear a tree out one hundred times, and I’ll be there replanting it one hundred and one.
And my final point is this: please join the fight. Do what you can to show your pride in our community. It doesn’t have anything on a large scale. Just take responsibility for yourself. Don’t dump your garbage by the roadside. Don’t let your dog off leash to defecate wherever it pleases. Encourage your family members to get involved in the community and in organizations in a positive way to set an example for everyone in Aldergrove. Take pride in this great community of ours.
Stuart Crowley, Aldergrove