Over the last three years, we long-time Ashlanders witnessed a public project at our historic Plaza. What I call the Plaza Destruction project — the worst example of poor judgment and reckless use of public money by city councilors, a dismissive city administrator, a compliant mayor, and an incompetent city staff in the last quarter century — resulted in the removal of beautiful healthy mature trees and all the mature bushes. Then that natural beauty was “replaced” with colorless grey pavers that bring to mind the quad of a modern prison, concrete benches (yes, concrete), and “public art” in the form of tiny abstract mosaics that could be in an airport terminal and are best viewed by tiny people about 18 inches tall. A brave minority of local citizens tried to stop the madness of this Plaza Destruction, to no avail. I was proud to stand with a brave few who stood witness to the healthy trees being cut down, especially a young local woman named Lisa Alexander who had been leading the citizen effort trying to talk sense to business-compliant city councilors and who went to public meetings to beg them to slow everything down.
With so many unanswered questions about this ill-advised, heavy-handed “remodel” of our public Plaza, I urge you to learn more about what happened and why by coming to watch one of the first screenings of a new, local documentary film ‘Where Have All The Colors Gone’. It was filmed and produced by Cici and Mark Brown whose two previous local films, ‘Two in a Million’ (about Dave Marston and Robin Lawson) and ‘Bowmer in the Park’ were accepted by the Ashland Independent Film Festival and shown in 2012 and 2013. Although entered, this film was not accepted this year by AIFF and a subsequent attempt to ask the Friends of the Ashland Public Library to sponsor the film was also declined. Happily, Havurah Shir Hadash will be hosting one of the first local screenings on Wednesday April 1 from 7 – 8:30 pm. A $5 donation is requested, refreshments will be served, and I will present live ukulele music to open the evening. I am also very proud to tell you that you will hear me making my music in the “soundtrack” to this excellent film.
In the photos below (courtesy Preserve Ashland’s Historic Plaza), you see Lisa communing with the Japanese maple on the Plaza before it was moved; Lisa on the cold December morning when we stood to witness the trees being cut down; yours truly standing by her; the two liquidambars standing alive on their last morning; and the stump and rounds a bit later — with photographic proof of healthy wood from the center to the bark (in direct opposition to the ‘spin explanation’ about the ‘poor health’ of these trees in legal testimony by senior city staff). As William Blake said, “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing in the way.”