Rid­ing the Can Do Ex­press

The Covington News - - OPINION - Mau­rice Carter is a Cov­ing­ton res­i­dent, a na­tive At­lantan, an IT con­sul­tant by pro­fes­sion, and an ac­tive com­mu­nity vol­un­teer at heart. He can be reached at mau­ricec7@bell­south.net.

Last Sun­day, sit­ting mes­mer­ized by Cirque du Soleil’s Totem, I was struck by how the show chal­lenges our no­tions of hu­man lim­i­ta­tions. With feats of in­cred­i­ble ath­leti­cism, agility, strength and grace — framed with soar­ing imag­i­na­tion and cre­ative artistry — Cirque re­veals the amaz­ing pos­si­bil­i­ties to be dis­cov­ered be­yond the bound­aries of what we be­lieve is hu­manly pos­si­ble. Ev­ery act was some­thing I wouldn’t have be­lieved pos­si­ble be­fore see­ing with my own eyes.

Stand­ing out­side Le Grand Chapiteau (the Big Top) at in­ter­mis­sion, I re­called walking those same grounds decades ago as a young boy tour­ing the At­lantic Steel mill. Back then, and later with the mill sit­ting idle, who could have imag­ined a live-work-play devel­op­ment like At­lantic Sta­tion aris­ing from such an in­dus­trial waste­land?

Leave it alone, ev­ery­one said. It’s too con­tam­i­nated. Move on. But, some­one looked across that land­scape and saw some­thing mag­nif­i­cent. That’s how it is with great ideas. They’re unimag­in­able un­til some­one dares to dream them… un­think­able un­til some­one risks speak­ing them… im­pos­si­ble un­til some­one re­fuses to let them die… im­prob­a­ble un­til the per­se­ver­ance and will of a few out­last the doubts and reser­va­tions of the many.

Ear­lier that day, be­fore Cirque, we vis­ited His­toric Fourth Ward Park on the At­lanta Belt­Line. An- other once unimag­in­able idea, the Belt­Line is the brain­child of Ge­or­gia Tech stu­dent Ryan Gravel, whose 1999 grad­u­ate the­sis de­scribed a 22-mile green­way en­cir­cling At­lanta with light rail tran­sit, parks, multi-use trails, and mixed-use devel­op­ment built along un­used rail­road cor­ri­dors. Of the Belt­Line seg­ments built to date, His­toric Fourth Ward Park is a crown­ing achieve­ment and show­case for a project that will trans­form down­town At­lanta. Opened this spring, the 17-acre park features lawns, a play­ground, a splash pad, an out­door am­phithe­ater and a two-acre lake. Nearby, con­nected via the Belt­Line’s East­side Trail, sits a world-class skate park, an­other play­ground, and a large multi-use ath­letic field. The com­plex would be stun­ning in any lo­ca­tion, but against the back­drop of At­lanta’s sky­line, it’s breath­tak­ing.

That day, the play­grounds were filled with fam­i­lies and chil­dren. The path around the lake was bustling with walk­ers, jog­gers and bi­cy­clists. Water fowl landed and took flight from wet­land ar­eas. It was beau­ti­ful.

Not only is the park an oa­sis for healthy liv­ing and so­cial in­ter­ac­tion in a busy ur­ban land­scape, it also solves prac­ti­cal prob­lems. As a storm water de­ten­tion basin, the park’s lake in­creases sewer ca­pac­ity, re­duces the bur­den on ag­ing city in­fra­struc­ture, and pre­vents flood­ing. Devel­oped in part­ner­ship with the At­lanta De­part­ment of Wa­ter­shed Man­age­ment, the de­sign saved the city more than $15 mil­lion com­pared to a tra­di­tional sys­tem.

Closer to home, on a more ap­proach­able scale, two lo­cal ef­forts to en­rich our com­mu­nity will in­ter­sect this af­ter­noon be­hind the li­brary on Floyd Street in Cov­ing­ton. Be­fore the an­nual Twi­lights at Chim­ney Park event at 5 p.m. to­day, the city of Cov­ing­ton, New­ton County and non­profit New­ton Trails will host a 4:30 p.m. rib­bon cut­ting for the East­side Trail — a 2.6-mile paved multi-use trail be­tween the li­brary and East­side High School.

For my fel­low New­ton Trails board mem­bers and me — as well as our many sup­port­ers — the trail open­ing is a moment of pride, ex­cite­ment and an­tic­i­pa­tion. Seven years af­ter the city and county sought fed­eral grants for con­struc­tion, the trail is now a re­al­ity (with a few board­walk sec­tions over wet­lands still to be com­pleted in the next few weeks). Our goal is county-wide con­nec­tiv­ity via green­way trails, but the pop­u­lar­ity of this first phase will give first breath to the healthy, vi­brant, pros­per­ous, con­nected com­mu­nity we en­vi­sion.

Like the trail for us, Chim­ney Park is a burn­ing pas­sion for an­other ded­i­cated group of hard-work­ing vol­un­teers, Friends of New­ton Parks, who are build­ing a uni­ver­sally ac­ces­si­ble, ur­ban wood­land park amid the ru­ins of a home which once stood be­hind the li­brary. Twi­lights is a not-to-be missed event for the child in each of us — an evening when al­ready mag­i­cal wood­lands are trans­formed into an en­chant­ing won­der­land of lights, sounds and fan­tasy. The an­nual event is the em­bod­i­ment of the group’s vi­sion for “a peace­ful ur­ban wood­land that at­tracts chil­dren and adults of all ages and abil­i­ties with com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and el­e­ments that en­cour­age pas­sive play, ex­plo­ration, imag­i­na­tion, quiet con­tem­pla­tion and re­spect for na­ture and his­tory.”

Come to Chim­ney Park to­day. Ex­pe­ri­ence what can hap­pen when we dream the unimag­in­able, give voice to the un­think­able, at­tempt the im­pos­si­ble and put en­dur­ing will power to work on the im­prob­a­ble.

Next stop for the Can Do Ex­press, Por­terdale’s Yel­low River Park.

MAU­RICE CARTER COLUM­NIST

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