By Lloyd Gray/NEMS Daily Journal
On a recent weekend morning, my wife and I took the trail into the woods at the Chickasaw Village site on the Natchez Trace and within a matter of seconds were enveloped, as always, by a calm serenity.
The tree canopy brought the temperature and our blood pressure down immediately.
It’s a familiar path. We’ve walked it many times over the years. Sometimes she runs it, but I prefer to take it at a slower pace, drinking in the seasonal surroundings.
In the middle of our otherwise busy little city, this miles-long trail – officially called the National Scenic Trail, Blackland Prairie Section – offers a respite for walkers and runners of varying ages to retreat, recoup and rejuvenate. It’s a reminder that not all that government does is messed up, and that there are things it can do that the private sector wouldn’t or couldn’t.
Preserving and setting aside land solely for public enjoyment is one of them. Our national park system is an American treasure. In Mississippi, we have an excellent collection of state parks, including three of the best – Tishomingo, Tombigbee and J.P. Coleman – here in Northeast Mississippi.
Tupelo would be diminished without Ballard and Veterans parks, and the new Fairpark green space in front of City Hall has already in its short life added much to the life of the city.
Some scoff at the notion that parks and green spaces have value or that taxpayers’ money should be spent on such “frills.” But there are some things government should do simply because they enhance the cohesiveness required for a democratic society to function.
Parks and green spaces bring people together. They encourage interaction across social, economic and racial lines. The more of that we have, the stronger civic bonds we share, which in turn leads to less reliance on government and more on ourselves and each other.
And while they keep the private sector from free-reign development of the land they take, parks make places more attractive for people to live and, therefore, more likely to engender business and economic development.
When the temptation is to say, as a broad generalization, that government is the problem, not the solution, we need to stand back and say, “Is that really true in all circumstances?” In some, no doubt. Perhaps in many. But certainly not in all.
We would be less attuned to the majesty and grandeur of creation, and therefore less majestic as a nation, without the great national parks. We would lose something important if Mississippi’s state parks closed. And Tupelo – as well as thousands of other cities, large and small – would be poorer, literally and figuratively, without its parks.
Creating and managing the Natchez Trace Parkway, its trails and everything else associated with it is something the private sector wouldn’t or couldn’t do. In this case, I’m glad the government, many years ago, decided to do it for us.
Lloyd Gray is executive editor of the Daily Journal. Contact him at (662) 678-1579 or firstname.lastname@example.org.