— “Americans and the Outdoors”
Not until a much-beloved vacation on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls was I fully aware of what the “greenway movement” was all about.
And that was a decade ago, probably about the time Cleveland and Bradley County government leaders partnered with local outdoor enthusiasts and community-minded businesses to brainstorm the launch of our own Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway.
During that pleasant sojourn to the big Canadian splash, I was still an avid runner and enjoyed nothing more in life than arising at 5 a.m. and beating the morning sun to the pavement. So I took the opportunity several mornings on the gorgeous greenway that coursed along the cliffs above the Niagara River, and alongside those majestic falls.
These were some of the most inspiring runs I have enjoyed over the past 25 years. I’ll write about them again on another day.
I still jog. At least, that’s what I call it. Technically, it better resembles a crippled slug on Valium missing one crutch. And its frequency comes and goes with the seasons.
Last year, Southeast Tennessee enjoyed four seasons. So I figure I ran four times during the calendar year.
OK. OK. I exaggerate. But truthfully, although I still love a good jaunt, this newspaper job has altered my lifestyle, and not for the better. Newspaper work is not a life conducive to a modest waistline nor optimum health.
But part of the blame is mine to bear. So rather than whine in print, I’ll just have to find a way to do better.
One recent morning I did.
Taking a couple of days off work, I used the time to catch up on some yard work, sleep and exercise — all of which had gone AWOL in recent weeks. Because of locale, my normal morning or evening trot favors the Huff’n Puff Fitness Trail over at Oak Grove Elementary School. But on one weekday morning, I opted for the Greenway.
My generic-brand running shoes had gone missing from the linear park for several months — for no reason other than logistics. Oak Grove is a five-minute drive from home. The Greenway is about 15, depending on traffic, traffic lights and mood — none of which is a guarantee.
Greenway users have their preferred starting points. Mine is the lower parking lot at the Cooke’s Food Store Plaza just across the way from Gondolier’s.
On the weekday morning of my slugfest, the Greenway was scattered with its typical populace — mostly walkers in groups ranging from one to four, a few joggers, one sprinter, two bicyclists, one stroller equipped with tiny infant, two dogs, no skaters or boarders (they were in school) and later that cloudy morning I was informed by a good-natured friend that closer inspection might have unveiled a partridge and perhaps a pear tree. I took the comment as innocent Yuletide humor and did not return to the paved path for further review.
Joggers differ on weather preferences. Some like bright sun. Others favor dusk. Many prefer summer heat. Another group craves the cold. Most hanker temps somewhere in the in-between. Some don’t care. True runners are all-weather animals. Whether the day brings sunshine, rain, mist or snow, they’re in it.
Personally, I like the cloudy days. I’m not a mole, but the bright sun is too much for the eyes; hence, I prefer those puffy skies of alternating shades of grey.
Upon first learning that Cleveland and Bradley County were getting their own Greenway — at least, in phases — I became excited because its potential reminded me of those morning jaunts while vacationing in Canada.
Obviously, Mouse Creek will never rival the great falls of Niagara, but the common denominator is this — greenways. Both accentuate the outdoors. Each is free of burdensome intersections, traffic lights and automobile exhaust. Both are family-friendly. And each is a safe atmosphere for individuals or groups.
Local Greenway users are getting even more excited over the pending completion of Phase 5 which will connect two existing strips and create a four-mile stretch — a runner’s heaven and a stroller’s delight.
Perhaps what is most impressive about the local linear park is the story of its development — a total team approach that includes individuals, local government, state agencies, civic clubs, nonprofit organizations, businesses, industries and churches, among others.
Over the years, the Cleveland/Bradley County Greenway has become a sight to behold.
Many people are due our community’s endearing thanks — especially those whose vision led us down this path of recreation, exercise and opportunity.