Monday, May 31, 2010

Hamilton Park: Born Again For All

Nobody was smoking. This sounds like an odd initial impression and in fact, it wasn’t the first thought I had when had my personal premier of the renovated Hamilton Park on Saturday. My first thought was nice job. But as I sat there in the beautiful spring weather, soaking up the sun and the lively and pleasant atmosphere, I soon thought that. No lit cigarettes are in sight. Everything was so clean, there were so many kids and parents out and about; smoking would be likely frowned upon. Good thing I don’t smoke.... any more. Haven’t since September, I’ve quit. I think about it often, I miss it, and quitting was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever accomplished. The reason I thought about the smoking at this particular moment is that I smoked many a cigarette in Hamilton Park, walking through it or pausing and lingering, especially in the warm weather months. The park closed when I was still smoking. Now, the park has changed and so have I, and so far for the better and a greater good.
The children’s playground has been moved from near the gazebo to northwest quadrant and expanded. The tennis and basketball courts have been refurbished. Two basketball games were being played simultaneously on Saturday and a few folks watched in the small set of newly erected stands or sat in the fresh, clean grass. Two dog runs—for small and large “breeds,” since I guess mutts are frowned upon as the socioeconomic makeup up of our town escalates, at least in these parts. Thank God for these dog runs, finally something our local politicians and real estate moguls achieved is good for the community. Dogs ran wild in this park, causing a serious health and safety hazard. I actually wrote a letter, published in the Hudson Reporter, went to the police station, put fliers—Unleashed is Illegal. People who live more directly in the vicinity are well aware of these political battles. I don’t need to recount them here. The debate lasted for years and pitted neighbor against neighbor. I don’t want to get on a rant or let free my familiar flood of memories on this issue. That’s now past and a new, safer era of responsible pet ownership has begun and seeing how happy those canines cavorting together in their own private enclosure gladdened my heart. Finally, the park has facilities where these animals are encouraged to be good dogs. There needs to be more places to sit and in fact, the reorganization of space and the additions of the dog runs removed an area of tables and benches. Granted, this particular space had been taken over by some borderline types, they wandered over from the St. Lucy’s Shelter and other places. I never saw them as dangerous, they were never unruly. But their presence meant most of the time, you avoided that particular area. There seems to be no place for groups, of any kind—except for children and their parents and dogs and their owners—to congregate. That’s a trade-off I’m unhappy with. There is less grass, but it’s green and clean and free of dogs and their waste products.

Children of all ages running about, playing each other, parents having a good time being parents—everyone safe from unleashed dogs—that was just great. Moments like that, where you feel good about the present, the future, society as a whole... your city, state, country, world... seriously, those moments are few and far between and when they come they’re intrinsically fleeting. It behooves us all to appreciate them when they’re here. Cities outlast us. Cities are us, but we’re no more than residents and care-takers. We’re temporary. Hamilton Park is not just for those lucky enough to be able to afford the skyrocketing real estate prices of that neighborhood; this park belongs to the entire city. In fact, because of how it is funded, it actually belongs to the entire state of N.J. It was around before I got here and will be around long after I’m gone and that’s true for every one of us, even those endearing children playing beneath the sunshine of May. We’ll have to wait another 20 years for such a comprehensive renovation. Aside from the arrogance of the dog owners disobeying the leash laws, I loved the slightly run down aspects of this city park. Probably because I’m slightly run down too.

At some time in the past, what had become run down was once new. I’m sure what we see now will some day seem run down, and another renovation will be implemented. This too will pass; at least eventually will be out of date. How rare that we get to enjoy an old park that’s new again. It is not often nor common that we get to experience a new city park to accompany a new summer. I’ll be reflecting on that as the seasons change in this reborn setting. We missed the park. Closed for more than a year, the renovation delayed for various reasons. I did my part with several posts featuring wise ass complaints. I can quibble with details of the renovation. It really doesn’t matter if it is worth it or not. The park is back and so are we.

I spent some time on a bench, not smoking, drinking an iced tea. I usually read, but not today. I had a moment to enjoy as did everybody there.

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