This week we ask, if Chagrin Falls writes regulations for using local parks, can failure and complaint be far behind?
We are thinking about one rule in particular. The one that outlaws signs. The following is not an April Fools’ Day joke, although it is pretty goofy in our humble opinion.
The wise ones currently regulating what can and cannot happen in village parks are adamantly opposed to allowing signs because – pay attention here – signs equal advertising and to commercialize our public green spaces is forbidden.
But there is a Grand Canyon sized assumption that all signs are advertising signals and that thinking demonstrates a failure of common sense.
Consider the local floral designer Janet Ingold who recently proposed a three-day art installation for Riverside Park later this month.
As she explained it, the piece would celebrate spring and feature fresh flowers artistically arranged around a specific tree. Its location between the library and river was chosen because no matter from which side it is viewed there will be an iconic Chagrin Falls background.
There will be no tacks or nails involved in the installation so the live art piece would not damage the tree. Ms. Ingold was given the nod by the Chagrin Falls Shade Tree Commission. Ditto the Parks Commission.
Along the way it was made clear that there could be no accompanying words – not her name, title of the piece or description. None. Nothing. Nowhere.
Why? Because in the minds of the rule-makers, all words are advertising and that is not allowed in our parks.
Last week, Chagrin Falls Village Council approved for Ms. Ingold’s installation although one member abstained from voting because he was uncertain what it was all about.
This same reaction by others could spell a problem for the village.
Imagine you are on a stroll through Riverside Park and come upon the tree festooned in flowers. Being a curious human, you look for more information but there’s nothing there to tell you what it is, who did it or why. You are a good citizen and call the cops to report suspicious activity in Riverside Park.
A simple 3-by-5 card stating something like, “ ’Ode to Spring’ by Janet Ingold,” would eliminate unwarranted calls to police. It’s not allowed under the rule that all signs are advertising.
Then there is the upcoming July 4 band concert, also in Riverside Park. There will be no sign to tell the audience they are enjoying patriotic music by “Steve Eva and his Studio Orchestra” because that is as illegal as offering water to a Georgia voter on Election Day.
So, we wonder, why are hundreds of signs allowed in the park during the Chagrin Valley Jaycees’ Blossom Time festival and the Valley Art Center’s Art by the Falls?
Will sheets of plywood be nailed over the Tilt-a-Whirl sign because of these new rules? Must all of the artists in the Valley Art Center’s Art by the Falls toil in anonymity with nothing permitted that will tell us their names or media?
Of course not. So, why are those “advertisements” permitted while others are not? What makes the Valley Art Center and Chagrin Valley Jaycees different from Janet Ingold or Steve Eve and his studio orchestra?
And what about all those words on the book pages attached to stakes along the reading trail in Riverside Park? And all the nonprofits and school organizations that advertise their events on signs in Triangle Park?
The park rules may be black and white, but the world is technicolor and outright prohibitions never work. There must be a better approach.
We’ve all heard the will-worn saying, “For every rule there is an exception.” There’s an alternative saying and while we don’t know the author, the wisdom fits Chagrin Falls park regulations.
“For every rule there is an exception in which case you follow the new rule based on that exception. Following this pattern always guarantees that you will come to the right decision, except when it doesn’t.”