Yesterday, the core members of the Friends of the Prouty Garden had a long conference call, the main questions of which were: where do we stand now, and where do we go from here?
We have been quiet for some time now. December was a hard month for us. As most of you probably know, the Hospital administration decided to cut down the Dawn Redwood tree in early December. This was a symbolic and unnecessary move, as the Hospital doesn't plan to break ground until the Spring. They were sending a message. More on that in a moment.
Also in December, we lost Caitlin. In fact, she went on life support on the day the tree came down. Caitlin O'Hara was a lifelong BCH patient and one of the founding members of the group. It is impossible to emphasize enough just how integral she was to our formation and our ongoing efforts. More than anything, she brought perseverance and a sense of clarity to our work.
Caitlin always zoomed out, saw the big picture. It was how she lived with such vibrancy, caring and beauty in her 33 years, despite the cruelty of cystic fibrosis, and it was part of why she believed so passionately that the Hospital administration could (and still can) save the Prouty Garden, as decades of administrations have managed to do in the face of expansion needs in the past.
SO, WHERE DO WE STAND NOW?
The Prouty Garden itself is barren. A patch of bald earth. This is heartbreaking, yes. This is a patch of ground that has remained open space since the time of the glaciers. It was once a beautiful garden that was painstakingly designed - every aspect carefully chosen - by Olive Higgins Prouty, a woman who wanted to honor two daughters who had died. Mrs. Prouty was specifically concerned that her memorial garden would be one day destroyed and was specifically promised by Children's Hospital that it would not be.
However, our court case goes forward. This case is examining the process by which the hospital received its building approval. All of the legal wins and losses to date have been appetizers, if you will. When we get to the full court case - the main course - the court will look at all the evidence to determine whether the DoN process was carried out properly. The result of this case could be that the Hospital cannot build their building there, in which case, they would have to decide what to do with the land, whether to bring back the Prouty Garden to the resounding cheers of thousands of former and current patients, doctors, nurses, staff, local residents, historians, environmentalists, landscape architects, not to mention all the future souls who so desperately need that space.
We want to make clear that this is a long process. Our lawyers are right now combing through hundreds of documents and are working to obtain thousands more through the discovery process and public records request. In the meantime, we cannot give up. We cannot relent the pressure. We must press on as boldy as before.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
Cutting the Dawn Redwood was a risk, as the Hospital cannot predict how the court will rule on this ongoing case, nor can they predict how the new President's healthcare and immigration policies will affect their ability to attract the patient volumes needed to justify a new building. Depending on all of these factors, all of their destruction so far could end up a sunk cost.
So, we ask ourselves, why the tree? Why now? The answer is simple. To quiet us. To make us back down.
The hospital wanted to make us feel like there was nothing left fighting for.
We know some of you do feel that way, and we do understand it. The original Prouty Garden is gone. But in our view, the land is worth protecting, the ground is still hallowed ground, and the potential for a new Prouty Garden that remains large and immersive and on the ground, a true healing garden, this possibility is still worth fighting for. Not to mention the moral reasons. Not to mention principle.
In the long months ahead we will continue to share original Prouty Garden stories and current patient stories. We will look at how the new administration, any potential changes or overturning of the ACA, and international relations policies, will impact the hospital. We will keep you updated on the case, both here and through REACH Boston. We will continue to talk about what makes a healing garden and why healing gardens - true healing gardens (not pathetic strips of "green space") - matter so much to patient healing. We will continue to talk to the media.
We hope you will hang in there with us.