Waterloo Accuracy

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 7, 2021

Dear Editor,
    I am disappointed in Nick Barbaro’s puerile editorial on the re-opening of Waterloo Park ["What Have They Done to Our Park?" News, Sept. 3]. His trite and historically inaccurate summary fails Chronicle readers by reducing to a self-interested tantrum what should have been a thoughtful critique of this signature project.
    He makes the bizarre and false assertion that Waterloo Park was “jealously preserved ever since the earliest city plats.” L.J. Pilie’s first 1939 plat map of Austin shows the blocks of what is now Waterloo Park platted for homes and businesses. Waterloo Park didn’t open until 1975, after six blocks of homes were condemned and their residents displaced - a fact Barbaro seems to have overlooked in his ballyhooed exploration of Waterloo Greenway’s website.
    In misrepresenting the history of this space, Barbaro eschews the chance to be a scholar and settles instead to be a scold. The notion that the new iteration of Waterloo Park is somehow less of a park than it was 10 years ago is laughable and reveals Barbaro’s actual complaint: that it just doesn’t look like what he thinks a park should look like. This is evident in his histrionic description of the parks’ concrete walks (“buried under concrete”) that fails to recognize how they open the park to new users - including parents with strollers, children and the elderly, and persons with mobility challenges - who could not previously participate in the public life of Waterloo Park.
    Barbaro’s dismissal of the park as “a complete lost cause” illustrates an insensitivity to how people other than himself use parks and to the responsibilities of contemporary public space. He clings to a pastoral, autobiographical notion of parks, implying that the “undeveloped” Waterloo Park of 10 years ago should be cast in amber while ironically finding the gall to label the Waterloo Park of today as a “park museum.” In truth, the new Waterloo Park belongs to more people and must provide for the needs of a more diverse set of park-goers than Barbaro is willing to recognize.
    It is disappointing that Barbaro is so seemingly uninterested in the history, present, and future of public spaces. I encourage him to pass the task of this writing to someone who is.
Brendan Wittstruck
   Publisher Nick Barbaro responds: Dang, you're absolutely right about the history; I was confusing it with the long-gone "Public Space" that was down the street at 10th & Trinity (where First Baptist Church stands now). Shoulda just left that line out, but I stand by the rest of the review; you can't let the built environment so completely overwhelm the natural environment and have a great, or even adequate park.
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