Beautiful day in the neighborhoods

by Brian Clarey

I picked up the Latham Park Greenway about mid-point, near the intersection of Benjamin Parkway and Wendover Avenue. I didn’t realize it was mid-point — in 11 years of residency here in Greensboro, I’ve never once set foot on the trail, though I’ve driven past it thousands of times, noted the exercise stations I can see from my car window as I cruise east on Wendover, wondered how it fit into the larger system of greenways and trails that wind through the city.

It was a perfect day for it: a crisp and bright Saturday morning with the kids begrudgingly tackling their weekend chores and my wife apace

in the kitchen assembling a monster breakfast. I laced up my running shoes and slipped out the door, eager to exercise away the last vestiges of a chest cold that had me laid up on the couch for a couple days earlier in the week.

I didn’t realize I hit the trail at the halfway mark until I had gone west a mile or so and hit the edge of Friendly Center, at which point I turned and went the other way.

The path runs along a green space afforded by a cable cut, snaking through the tangled mess of roads that make up the heart of the city. I like running alongside the traffic on Wendover and Benjamin, because the realization that someone I know might see me chuffing along out there makes me work just a little bit harder. And I like the small footbridges that traverse Buffalo Creek and the lengths of trail that run alongside it. The rushing water cools me down as surely as if I was splashing around in it.

Along the banks of the creek I spot a wild tree, somewhat like a fern with pea-like pods drooping from beneath the fronds. There’s one in the creek that runs near my house in the northeast quadrant of town, and another that has sprung up on the slope in my backyard. A neighbor is trying to convince me to nurture this wild sapling by cutting down another, larger tree that grows nearby. It will involve a chainsaw. If I bite, the kids are gonna love it.

The subdivision in which I live, the same neighbor recently told me, was once a spillway of sorts, swampy with mud before developers graded and piled the land, cut it into lots and built single-family homes around 1997. It’s a true neighborhood now, with children waiting for school busses in the mornings and tromping the yards in the afternoons, smoke from barbecues or fireplace chimneys rising in the air, well tended lawns and shrubbery. We don’t know all know everybody’s names here in the nabe, but we all wave to each other as we drive by.

We don’t have a greenway like this in our neighborhood. Truly, we don’t even have sidewalks on our busiest streets; it is not uncommon to see young mothers pushing strollers along the side of Yanceyville Street that runs through my part of town as busses and cars whiz by. The closest we have to a space like this one is the Northeast Community Trail, built right around the same time we bought our house, which begins just north of Huffine Mill Road and will eventually connect with the Latham trail I took through this part of the city where sidewalks are much more common.

Like I say, it’s my first time on this trail in the 11 years I’ve lived here even though, I suppose, my taxes have been going towards it all this time. Green spaces like this are as good a use of tax money as any, I think, particularly when I remember the places I used to live: New York, where my friends pay roughly 10 times what I do here, and Louisiana, where politicians steal tax money and hide it in their freezers.

Yes, taxes are for things like this — pleasant amenities that add beauty and value to a community while enriching the lives of those who live there. It’s for other things too, of course: cops and firefighters and trash pickup and schools and even wars. But I’ll take a well-kept trail or a national park over a hastily assembled pre-emptive air strike most any day of the week.

I ran along the Latham Park Greenway, under the Aycock trestle and through the park itself, stopping at the exercise stations to add balance to my workout. I saw the O. Henry Hotel rise in the distance past Wendover, made my way past a baseball diamond waiting for a pick-up game, nodded to fellow joggers, late-morning strollers and dog-walkers alike on the concrete path. I got to the Westerwood gate at the entrance to that neighborhood, then turned around and made my way back to the halfway mark. It was a beautiful day.