Carolyn Hax: Foes circle their wagons as children trample a round-about garden

DEAR CAROLYN: My neighborhood has one small traffic island, to calm traffic and prevent accidents. Our town maintains traffic islands as public green space with the help of community volunteer gardeners.

Several homes surrounding the island have been incubating a new batch of children. About eight of them are now finally allowed to play outside their yards and have taken to playing on the island, climbing its small trees, sword-playing, and using it as a meeting place/pirate ship/castle, etc.

One neighbor who has been doing the gardening discovered a lot of the plants had been trampled, tree branches broken – it was a mess – and posted a sign saying it was not a playground. Then a parent posted over the sign a response saying the children have to play somewhere. I detected the implication that we might be too old to understand the needs of their children.

These are half-million-dollar homes and all of them have yards. Granted, this small island is a public space, but it is not a playground.

Given the damage and the fact that no parents are visibly supervising their children out on the street, we are confused as to whether to continue doing this civic beautification task. Plus, it’s a pedestrian accident waiting to happen.

I’m not comfortable taking a Darwinian approach to settling this matter but I don’t see these parents creating a teachable moment for their children so that harmony with the earth will reign, either.

I love children and I get them. I’m not some crabby old person who is telling children to get off my lawn. I’ve raised two boys, so I understand the work involved in riding herd on active children while not stifling them.

– Kid Zone

DEAR ZONE: You’re not a get-off-my-lawn person, but the poster of the original sign sure sounds like one.

It’s unfortunate, too, because that huffy, arm’s-length, get-off-my-lawn-you-unwashed-vermin implication may have cost your neighborhood its best chance to find some kind of cooperative solution to this problem: actually talking to each other, nicely.

But that doesn’t mean inclusiveness and cooperation are impossible. It just means that you (since you’re the one asking) need to be extra extra careful to set an example of flexibility and calm. If the plantings aren’t kid-hardy, then maybe it’s time for tougher plantings instead of tougher boundaries for the kids.

The only relevant opinions on safety are of the people who live, drive, plant and reproduce there.

So, talk. Warn the gardeners, though, they vie for the last word at their peril. With community property you all have equal say, but with kids the parents get the last word.