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Lake Varner
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We have several scenic gems in Newton County, including Turner Lake, City Pond, Factory Shoals Park and Lake Varner.

The last one may offer the best vistas (though Factory Shoals is one of our personal favorites); however, if you wanted to have a picnic at Lake Varner, you had to settle for sitting on the grass. We agree that's how a picnic should be, but it's not so suitable for larger, or more ambitious, gatherings. Plus, those pesky ants are always a concern. Just ask our Friday front-page photo subjects, who suffered a few bites for our benefit.

The Newton County Board of Commissioners recently voted to spend $40,977 to build two open-air pavilions at the lake, in a move that will make the lake more accommodating for celebrations of all types.

Yes, even $41,000 is a lot to spend in a down economy, and we understand commissioners approaching the topic with caution; however, we commend them for spending the money to enhance a local destination spot.

Just like the county, families have been hurt by the long-depressed economy, and family trips are ending up closer to home these days, while staycations are becoming the cost-conscious rage. Staying at home doesn't have to be such a drag if there are pretty places to see in your backyard.

Once the pavilions are completed later this year, we'll look forward to seeing you out there.