Longtime readers probably know that I am not a fan of government, which based on my observations tends to be overbearing and oppressive to citizens in many respects, such as tax policies and burdensome regulations.
Another problem that I have with bureaucracy is that over time it has come to consider itself superior to the people, rather than their servant, which is the way things were set up by our Founding Fathers. Somehow big government can get away with practices such as operating at a deficit and making other bad financial decisions we citizens would never even think about doing.
Yet in the interest of fairness I am quick to give credit where it’s due, and recognize that even the government gets it right from time to time.
One fine example of this is the greenway system here in Mount Airy. I must say that it is one of the best things the city government and agencies at higher levels, including the N.C. Department of Transportation, have ever provided for the masses.
This started with the Emily B. Taylor Greenway along Lovills Creek on Mount Airy’s west side, a project of nearly 2.5 miles which was completed in 2001. Then in 2009, the Ararat River Greenway opened on the east side of town, extending along that waterway from Riverside Park to a point near Tharrington Primary School for a distance of about 2.2 miles.
As a result, local residents have been provided with a valuable recreational resource, whether they are joggers, bicyclists or someone who simply desires to take a pleasant walk with nature on a spring or fall day.
On Friday, another chapter in Mount Airy’s greenway legacy unfolded when a groundbreaking event was held for a 2.2-mile connector that will link the Taylor and Ararat River greenways, thus providing a paved trail of nearly seven continuous miles.
Although the poet Rudyard Kipling wrote that “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” this will not apply to the city of Mount Airy’s greenway system.
Obviously there are health benefits of a greenway, but the recreational and tourism value of the trails also can’t be understated, such as a major trout-fishing site provided by the opening of the Ararat River Greenway which draws anglers from near and far. The greenway projects also have helped preserve the environment due to streambank restoration occurring along both local waterways as part of the construction.
As a longtime user of the Emily B. Taylor Greenway, another thing I have noticed is the social amenities offered.
You see people from all walks of life and ages out there — it might be the retired industrialist in his 80s out for a bicycle ride or the young mom pushing her baby in a stroller. A greenway is a true melting pot of society.
Thursday night, after our obligatory daily rainfall, I visited the greenway for a much-needed three-mile run (for which my athletic prowess, or lack thereof, is best-measured by a calendar rather than a watch). I was surprised by the number of people out there, even with puddles of water all along the way.
There were several runners, a family of helmet-wearing bicyclists and some lone cyclists, a young man covered with tattoos who was walking his dog and an older man and woman. That man appeared to be suffering from some type of medical condition that limited his mobility, but he was out there just the same.
I spotted another man exercising with hand weights while engaged in a brisk walk. I saw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink, and if it had wheels and an engine it probably would have been out there, too.
Most everyone you encounter is quite friendly, acquaintances who meet along the way often will stop and chat and there is a certain sense of comfort on the greenways which allows one to feel safe.
In addition to all the other benefits, I find my time on the greenway to be extremely valuable from a psychological standpoint.
A workout there is a great stress-reliever and I can’t begin to calculate the problems I’ve solved while plodding along, and have even written news stories and columns in my head on occasion.
If I could change one thing about our local greenways, it would be finding a way to get more people to use these fine facilities.
Again, this is a good thing government has provided for us, and we might as well take full advantage.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693.