Enjoying Progress in My Own Backyard

Progress happens whether we are watching or not. For the past few months, I’ve been riding my bike slowly for 45 minutes to an hour, five or six days a week. The goal is to provide maximum benefit to my cardiovascular system while delivering minimum damage to my deteriorating joints. About once a week, I find myself feeling like a visitor in my town as I ride through our growing Calhoun City Park. 

In 2019, while exploring South Dakota, I experienced a revelation. People drive or fly across the country to enjoy the wonders in other people’s backyard, but many of us don’t appreciate what is in our own. Since my return from that trip, I have made a concerted effort to discover what is in my own backyard—to explore and get involved in the north Georgia community when I am home. 

Several years ago, the recreation department added to our 225-acre park, a walking and biking path, more baseball and softball fields, a party pavilion, and a black and gold playground set children never want to leave. More recently, a much-needed fenced-in dog park appeared.

The park already had a pool, tennis courts, ball diamonds, playground equipment, and pavilions when I moved here 36 years ago. This year, while I focused on getting a year’s supply of Vitamin D in Florida, the parks and recreation folks were busy improving our facilities once again. 

New pickleball courts were under construction on my first ride through the park in early May, and now this week they are almost complete. From the picture you can see the only things missing are the nets (and the players of course). It wouldn’t surprise me if the eight missing nets are there by the time I ride through the park this weekend. Having rallied for an hour in the Florida Keys with my “other brother Tom,” I admit I am a new pickleball convert. A rush of joy blew over me as I stopped to admire the fancy courts. 

My hope is that these new courts will stay busy with seasoned pickleball players and new converts like me over the coming months and years. I continued on my ride through the park, and my heart filled with joy as I passed a mom and dad walking with three young children in strollers, several couples, one of whom dropped hands to let me ride between them, three teenage girls taking glamor shots with their smartphones, two young guys on mountain bikes, and grandparents walking close to two young children laughing and running circles around the older couple. 

It does my heart good to see people out there enjoying nature, enjoying our park. When I heard the familiar happy birthday tune being sung to a five-year-old at the pavilion decorated with balloons and banners, I quietly sang along as I cruised by. 

Sometimes sadness envelopes me as I travel across town or across this great country of ours and encounter empty or near-empty parks and playgrounds. But on this sunny day in early June, my heart sang with gladness as many of my fellow Calhounites and I took advantage of the outdoor facilities we are so lucky to have in our progressing community.

The best way to say thank you to our parks and recreation departments across the nation is to use the facilities they have built for us. Who knows what fresh developments await, but for now, let’s enjoy the progress in our own backyard. Pickleball anyone?