Thanksgiving week is an opportunity for all of us to step off our wheels of busyness, spend time with loved ones, consume that most American of meals, catch a slew of football games and take time out for gratitude.
As a society it seems we are ever more focused on what divides us than what unites. That negative trend is not accidental, as politicians and ideologues of all stripes – including many in the media – have more to gain from keeping people riled up and at odds than from harmony. Money and power are truly at the root of most evil in the world, and anger sells.
It’s not too difficult, though, when we step off the wheel, to focus on blessings rather than grievances. While the greatest blessing of all is people to love and be loved by, there are many small elements of our lives that enhance them, sometimes without us being aware of them.
Parks fall into this category – both our wonderful national parks, and also our local ones here in Alexandria. Residents and visitors alike utilize Alexandria’s parks for exercise, for festive gatherings and as places to walk our dogs or let them run loose in one of the city’s six fenced dog parks. A park bench has timeless appeal as a place to rest legs weary from working or walking – or as a window on the world as it passes by.
We want to highlight three city parks in particular, in different areas of Alexandria, that delight in different ways and for which we are thankful: Windmill Hill Park – popularly called Lee Street Park – in Old Town, Judy Lowe Neighborhood Park in Del Ray and Potomac Yard Park.
The proximity of Waterfront Park to King Street means that throngs of visitors enjoy that park’s open space and rotating art elements, while Founder’s Park to the north is a great space for large events. But it’s Lee Street Park that is beloved by Old Town residents.
Generations of city children have sledded down Lee Street Park’s hill in the winter, practiced soccer or basketball there or played on its playground. The city has recently enhanced the waterfront facet of Windmill Hill Park on the east side of Union Street by dredging its cove and planting an array of beautiful grasses and shrubs while building gravel paths. There’s also an unfenced dog park along the waterfront. The enhancements have made this treasure even better.
Judy Lowe Neighborhood Park sits at the corner of Del Ray Avenue and Commonwealth Avenue. It’s built on an area the size of one good-sized single family home, and yet is a tiny jewel. It has a small, log-themed playground area, open grassy space and an attractive, central area with circular pavers that’s surrounded by park benches and trees. Walk up Del Ray Avenue and check it out next time you’re at St. Elmo’s or Del Ray Pizzeria.
And then there’s Potomac Yard Park, which has to be the most innovative park ever built in the City of Alexandria. This park is a long narrow strip that runs along the east side of Potomac Avenue. It has something for everyone, from a long sidewalk great for strolling or jogging, to a large, fantastic playground and interactive splash park for the little ones. There’s picnic areas, basketball courts, tennis courts, volleyball courts and, of course, lots of benches.
These are but a sampling of the wonderful parks in Alexandria. Which city park are you most thankful for?