Dear Editor: Just home from a trip to beautiful Edinburgh, Scotland, I feel a renewed belief in the need for and value of parks and green space in four community and an enthusiastic commitment to seeing Chimney Park funded and built in a timely manner.
Let me tell you what we saw in Edinburgh, which is no different from most cities of note in Europe. A long, terraced park stretched most of the way down famous Princes Street, and people, singly, in couples, in groups, with or without children, were gathered there all day long, lolling in the rich, green grass or grabbing shade under the towering trees. Some were tossing balls, others picnicking, reading, napping or talking among themselves.
It was a place just to be, to connect with each other and to be renewed by Mother Nature.
Even historic cemeteries nearby were maintained as if they were parks, with ample shade trees, thick green grass and plenty of places to sit and rest. These were not places that encouraged anyone to be active or to do anything - except experience peace.
There is today a growing movement in this country to reconsider parks and greenspace as major economic development tools and quality of life enhancers. Frederick Law Olmsted, creator of New York's Central Park and Atlanta's Piedmont Park, was the first in this country to recognize the role of parks in enhancing property values and quality of life in the central city, but over time, parks came to be seen as wasteful spending to promote recreation. The time clock, measures of productivity and the emphasis on bottom-line profits beat out the long-held beliefs in the value and necessity of rest and restoration in connection with nature.
Today any community with a vibrant park system is far ahead of communities with no similar emphasis. People want to live where there are peaceful places to convene in the company of trees, grassy open spaces and the quieting environment they provide - instead of with the computer or the car. The existence of parks and recreation are being counted as a valuable economic development asset when business and industries compare potential investment sites.
Chimney Park, "A Park with Heart," will be just such a place for Covington/Newton County. It will be right behind our wildly popular Newton County Library on county-owned land with towering trees and a sloping terrain that will make possible interesting nature walks, an open air amphitheater and plenty of places to rest, reflect, read and relax. Other elements will be universally accessible features friendly to the elderly and special needs children and their families such as a wheelchair accessible tree house and sensory gardens. A premium is being put on the historical aspects of the site - once the location of a grand house whose ruins will be incorporated into a Secret Garden to encourage children's imagination and discovery. Importantly, the new park is on the route of the walking/biking trail that's to connect the county's east and west sides.
Funds are slowing coming in toward the cost of construction documents while efforts to build public awareness of and enthusiasm for the park are being developed. More high profile local fundraising efforts are also in the works.
Most, if not all, of the funds to build Chimney Park are going to have to be raised right here.
If all of us - including candidates in this busy election year - will support the effort to build Chimney Park, we'll one day enjoy a showcase for the entire region - and not have to drive very far to get there.
Friends of Newton Parks Inc.