Never Say Always

I read the news about Ed Schneider’s resignation and my attention was drawn to board President Fife Symington’s statement and the use of the word “always.” As in: “The people who are opposed will always be opposed, but we’re moving forward.” [“Ed Schneider to Leave Botanic Garden,” 2/22/10]

The statement is manipulative and false. He cannot predict the future. The statement says a great deal about Mr. Symington’s intention and implies that little can be resolved with him at the helm.

My intention is to not discuss the content or truthfulness of his previous statements. It should be noted, however, that he is a politician, a disgraced governor of Arizona and most likely aware that if something is said over and over again it will probably stick in the minds of many people as truth. His message is for the media, and the heartfelt, real concerns of the neighbors, and the people that recognize the Garden as unique, have been vilified.

I withdrew my family’s membership in protest of the Garden’s expansion plans over 10 years ago. I included a message stating that I opposed the cheapening effects the plans would have on the beauty of the garden. My other concerns: traffic, fire, trash, wildlife, noise, fencing, nighttime lighting, etc. were not included in my protest at the time. My decision to withdraw our membership came after I had attended the early meetings the Garden had with its neighbors.

I witnessed the good faith and trust that most of us had that the Garden’s leadership would do the right thing. Then one day I realized I was being lied to. At first it was subtle, but then it became obvious. The Garden’s leadership was going to do whatever they wanted and they thought they had the money and power to go for it. The most glaring components of the original plans included a restaurant, a 60-foot diameter cut into the hillside to turn busses around on Mission Canyon Road, and buildings on the top of the hill east of the entrance. The proposals were outrageous for a reason: If you take out the most ridiculous aspects of the plan to show the neighbors and the County Supervisors that the Garden cares about the neighborhood, the project will be approved.

So the neighbors organized because we knew we had a jewel in Mission Canyon to protect and a well-financed organization to oppose. Many people began to step up and express their concerns, not just neighbors but former Board members, employees, and volunteers. The leadership of the Botanic Garden created our need to protest their actions.

One of the first changes was the relocation of the entrance. In my opinion, the entrance was changed so the public would be marched past the store. Marketing drove the change, not the original landscape design concept of seeing the meadow unfold and blend into the mountain vista. Then came the fencing that impacted the wildlife. Shortly after the fence was installed I slowed my car and watched a fawn trying to get to the creek, my headlights illuminating the panic the creature was in. More and more wildlife showed up dead along the Mission Canyon Road side because of the fence. Then the Meadow Terrace Events Plaza began, distorting the integrity of the meadow and in violation of the County Historic Landmark Commission rules.

I can only speak for myself, but I look forward to a facilities upgrade plan that will bring back the trust of the people who have loved and supported the garden. I have tired of the division that has become so ugly. I am sad that my love and concerns for Mission Canyon’s habitat, my neighborhood, and the Botanic Garden’s many contributions to our community have been turned into a press flack’s simplistic sound bite: NIMBY.

The Garden needs new leadership at the Board level as well, and I encourage Mr. Symington to follow Mr. Schneider and also resign because he is part of the divisive, mean-spirited energy that has marred the original vision.—Susan R. Davidson

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