The former mayor's bleak vision may haunt us for a long time to come.
By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 08, 2007
Jack MacDonald, former mayor of Hamilton and long-time proponent of the Red Hill Valley Parkway, wants to have his ashes spread across the Parkway when he dies.
From Jack MacDonald's legacy, printed in the Hamilton Spectator on November 5:
The longest proponent of the Red Hill Valley Parkway wants his ashes spread across the four-lane highway.
Former mayor Jack MacDonald, who turned 80 last month, made the declaration this weekend at the official opening of the road he first moved to build five decades ago.
"It's been my life's work," he said, noting he's often wondered if he would live to see the road's completion. "I was afraid they'd have to spread my ashes in an open field."
It speaks volumes about MacDonald's mindset that his idea of an eternal resting place is to be blown about by the exhaust of traffic racing up and down the escarpment, his last bodily remnants scattered amidst discarded coffee cups, fast food wrappers, and scraps of blown truck tires.
His wish to be strewn across the highway also raises certain practical questions. How does he intend that it be carried out?
Will someone drive down the Parkway with an urn, sprinkling bits out of the window?
Or will there be a ceremony on an overpass that culminates with the dumping of his mortal remains onto the road? (Is that even safe?)
Will there ever be a time when a piece of roadside grit flies into a motorist's eye, and they wonder, "Was that a piece of Mayor MacDonald?"
I wasn't sure if MacDonald was serious, so I emailed the author of the piece, Nicole MacIntyre, to make sure he wasn't joking. He's serious, she says. "He views the road as his greatest accomplishment."
MacDonald's vision is from a very different time, namely, the 1950s. Given what we now know about the rising demand and limited supply of oil, and the clear and present danger of climate change: why are we, as a city, led by a fifty-year-old vision?
The road is built, and I am content to judge it on its merits. But I fear for Hamilton's future if this city is guided by visionaries who, after death, would rather be driven over by commuters than laid down to rest peacefully in an open field.
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