A greenway is a long, narrow piece of land, where vegetation is encouraged, which is managed for public recreation and slow travel. So says Wikipedia. But when I imagine the Northend Greenway it becomes much more than that. Closing my eyes I see people greeting one another. I see walkers, joggers, bike riders, artists, children, the elderly and local residents of all types enjoying this “narrow piece of land.”
Personally, I like my car but I’ve realized that I’m happiest without it. I walk, use my bike, and have even ridden a horse as other means of travel. Time is different when you realize that each foot’s distance gained leads you to something you’ve never discovered before. Each moment becomes liquid. Your mind breaks things down in ways it sometimes can’t when you move at a breakneck pace. Your lungs fill slowly, inhaling and exhaling, keeping you alive.
Slower travel will change your life. It’s changing mine.
I’ve walked the proposed route twice, jumping fences and hopping over streams. Already I have noticed my own favorite spots, immersed in the evening’s golden glow with my discoveries. There are some places where the light hits Black’s Run just right. Watching and listening to the flow of water reminds me that I should move through life in a similar way. There are prints that animals have left behind, and I can tell there are more than just cattle that roam this field. There is a part where the blackened teazel stand like sentinels against the blue of the sky.
Forty percent of American errands occur within a two-mile radius according to the National Household Travel Survey. And yet we pay to go to the gym and “work out.” I can’t help but think about our pre-industrialized forefathers and foremothers working so hard to eke a living from their “narrow pieces of land.” We are fortunate to live in a time of convenience, but sometimes I worry that all this technology that connects us rather temporally has disconnected us from the eternal.
We can trivialize this trail, but I think what the greenway leads us to is connection.
From the connection of ideas or beliefs, to that of different cultures and people, and yes, geographically, a greenway becomes much more than a path. In the future I see public art, natural landscaping, a new generation coming into their own and adapting this space into something we haven’t even imagined yet. I see empowerment.
The Greenway has many miles to go to build this 2.5 mile distance. It takes a lot of support, a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of money to build something new in a community that has never been done before. We are not, however, alone. Look to other localities like Luray, VA, Greensboro, NC, and New York City. We aren’t inventing the wheel, but instead we are conceptualizing our own wheel. We are creating our own vision for our greenway. What will our greenway look like? How will we use it? Who will use it? Why is it important? It’s time to come dream with us.
Sarah Murphy is the Public Relations Associate for the Arts Council of the Valley, as well as a local photographer and artist. She volunteers for the Northend Greenway Education Committee and is excited for the Harrisonburg Parklet Project co-organized by the Northend Greenway, Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Arts Council of the Valley and coming up this October. To register: hburgpark.eventbrite.com