We’ve learned a great deal in the past few months—our medical workers are amazing; social interaction is underrated; and teachers are severely underappreciated. And one thing that hit home for me? Our park system is a vital service.
Of course I’m biased, but not a day went by that I didn’t see people walking our trails, playing on a playground, or riding bikes at Carvins Cove or Mill Mountain. Our social media feed was filled with you, all of you, taking the time to get outside not just for your physical health, but for your sanity. Fear, anxiety, stress—these were (and still are) prevalent for so many of us, and one thing we could (and can) do to clear our minds is just get outside.
I’ve always known the value of parks. Professionally, I travel the country giving presentations on their importance for economic development, livability, and public safety. But I was reminded that they’re also a refuge. We flocked to them during this pandemic. For the first time, when it’s socially acceptable to sit on the couch for days on end, we found ourselves drawn outside. Families picnicked, kids played, and neighbors were talking to one another, face to face (six feet apart of course). And I can’t thank the men and women of our department who have worked so very hard to keep our parks and trails clean, safe, and well-maintained.
I love what I do, but at times, it can be difficult to see the forest through the trees. This unfortunate event has given me the opportunity to step back and truly recognize the importance of a good park system and the critical role it plays in making a community truly livable. It’s hard to find a silver lining in this, but for me, it’s pride in what we do and what we provide for the people of this community. I’m grateful to all of you for sharing how powerful our public spaces are and how they’ve helped you get through these uneasy times. May they continue to provide comfort and refuge in the good times to come.