Imagine a city park. Those of us in rural communities don’t consider parks as much because we have lots of wide open spaces in which to wander. But an urban area where there are blocks of apartments, businesses and busy streets, without any green spaces between, (“Green space (land that is partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation) is without real life. One article I read talked about active and passive green spaces. Our parks serve both purposes and we need to protect them both. I want to explore that a bit.
Early photos of Glendive show land that is completely open between the river and the badlands. The community was once reminded that every tree in Glendive has been planted. And in this country that also means watered with great care and in many cases protected from the winter elements. The first settlers of the Great Plains struggled to grow trees. My first trips east of the Missouri River were overwhelming. I had never seen so many trees in one place. But you see, I was a prairie dweller, used to viewing an open horizon. While my grandmother from Wisconsin would return to the South Dakota prairie with soil from Wisconsin, hoping it would help her lilac bushes to grow, struggling as they did in the drought, wind, and the heat.
We need green spaces and we need trees and flowers and areas where we can just “be”, away from the noise and confusion of business and traffic. Glendive’s city parks are wonderful. We are blessed with public green spaces in every part of town. And these parks are maintained by the Public Works department. They water, mow, fertilize, rake leaves, maintain equipment and picnic tables. Those green spaces we take for granted, that we cherish for their shade and beauty and tranquility, are a gift given to the community.
Just think of Lloyd Square Park. How often in the summer do folks find shelter from the heat under the towering trees. Years ago there were band concerts in the park and Shakespeare in the Parks used the area for many years of plays — there is the swimming pool and bath house, tennis courts, playground, covered and open picnic areas, a basketball hoop and a lovely maintained garden and lots of room for the squirrels to play. The parks over the bridge include soccer fields, horse shoe pits, another tennis court, volleyball grounds, playground and skate park and picnic tables. Whipkey Park on the East side has a splash park, playground, baseball field and soccer fields and skating rink and a wonderful hill that is the best place in town for children to go sledding.
A green space is more valuable than we imagine. We humans have a compulsive need to fill up spaces. If there is an open lot we put up a shed. We fill our parks with things to do. But we also need a place to be able to sit quietly and read a book, or throw out a blanket and have a picnic, or wander among the trees and observe nature. Green spaces are not empty spaces in and of themselves, but filled with natural life which is essential to our mental well being.
As I listen to people talk about our local green spaces I keep hearing about more things to build in our parks. Of filling up the spaces, when the wonder and beauty of Makoshika, or example, is its wilderness. Development has its place, but it can also destroy the gift that is given us to just wander at will.
We need active and passive green spaces and then we must plan our parks and activities with care. Green spaces are areas that keep giving for generations. We need to do our work of preservation in this time and space. (Avis Anderson is a long-time resident of Glendive currently serving on the City Council.)