Where will the children play?

By K.L. Huntley
Reader Contributor

Everything, absolutely everything eventually evolves. This includes people, wildlife languages and cultures. That is the way it is and the way it will continue to evolve long after we have gone. We change, our bodies change and cities and towns change along with the weather patterns. Nothing stays stagnant. We do, however, have some limited control over some of these transitions. We can plan for the future, for ourselves and others. 

What type of community do we sincerely want to have? One that serves a few or serves many? One with parks and open spaces or one that mimics a metropolitan area overlooking a lake? 

As I look about I can’t help but think of the lyrics to a Cat Stevens song, “Where Will the Children Play?” 

You see the average working family in Sandpoint is quite limited to where their children can play. We are evolving from a family-oriented area to one catering to the more affluent. If you want to take your kids swimming at the Lighthouse YMCA, which states they give everyone a safe place to learn, grow and thrive, it will cost a family of two adults a fee of $110 per month or $1,320 per annum. That eliminates the word “everyone.” 

Rudy, 2, plays on the slide at the Travers Park playground on a sunny Wednesday morning. Photo by Ben Olson.

True, they were more than courteous to me; and, likewise, it is true they have to keep the lights on and hire people to maintain the place and chemicals for the pool. But that fee is prohibitive for this grandmother. 

My alternative is to seek public areas, like a swim at City Beach in Sandpoint or one of the many beaches down the lake. Of course, we are also limited to roughly two months out of the year for swimming. However, there is that alternative.

We live in a great ski area — but, again, it is a “for high-profit business” and a season pass is somewhere between $850 to $1,349, not to count equipment or lessons. 

Again, a ‘no-go’ for working parents with a couple of kids and definitely not grandparents on fixed incomes.

So, as Cat Stevens asked, “Where do the children play?” Travers Park is a favorite destination of many. Last time we went there we loaded up the bicycles and headed down Pine Street. I bet the kids a nickel each that there would be other kids there. One of them wanted to raise me a dime, but that was a no-go.

What a visual delight Travers Park currently is, filled with life from infants to grandparents. Generally, you can find the token little princess in her long gown, blue jeans underneath and tennis shoes on her feet; boys sharing football card collections; mothers nursing and daddies swinging a variety of kids.

A young man one day had “Smile” written across the front of his sweatshirt and I thought, “How could anyone not smile?” 

Normally, some youngster falls and there are screams and tears, but most days the only sound at Travers is that of squeals of laughter and play filling the air and some young person yelling, “Look at me.” 

There is a garden of humanity freely growing at the park side by side with the grass and the trees. This is where the children play, parents relax and teenagers meet.

What a magnificent place and time: human life totally enjoying itself with the simple help of bicycles, slides and a game of chase. All for free.

As I sat down and the grandchildren ran off with abandon, I couldn’t help but notice two young mothers chatting about healthy food, their budgets and exchanging ideas. Bonds were forming. At another table, was a mom reading a book while sharing trail mix with her young son perched next to her.

Around the trees proposed for removal is a great dirt bike run, bumpy but not dangerous, where a little adrenaline can be felt as a young adventurer peddles up and over the ruts. Future mountain bikers in training.

Will the halcyon scene at the park, children playing and parents laughing become a picture of the past? I certainly hope not. Travers Park is a feast for the eyes and balm for the heart. It is the personification of an idyllic Disney movie. A movie that you don’t want to end. 

But somewhere someone for reasons unknown decided it should all end. I can’t help wondering who profits? An amended building housing an indoor tennis court is proposed for the few who play the game. The trees where the children currently play will be cut down, the equipment and grass removed, and an artificial climbing tree installed.

For what? An indoor tennis and pickleball facility? This proposal is a bellwether clattering and clanging a warning that our community is evolving toward the rich and affluent and definitely away from the middle- and working-class families. A community catering to the few and turning its back on the many.

And where will the children play?

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