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An afternoon walk in the park

What do you do if you've gone to Fargo on a Sunday afternoon to visit your family and suddenly everybody has taken off on personal missions and you're home alone? You take off for the nearest park and go for a walk. After all it was the first warm, dry, sunny day in what seemed to be a month.

Ken Burns is currently showing a TV special on our wonderful national parks: Yellowstone (the oldest and best known), Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Redwood, Yosemite, Theodore Roosevelt, Shenandoah and the rest, and what great vision our forefathers had to set aside these national treasures for all of us. How true and how appropriate. Trouble is, millions of folks will never get to a national park. For them and for all of us, our city parks may be the only park within reach.

Lindenwood Park in Fargo winds along and through the woods of the Red River, still damp on its banks from the floods of last spring and the rains of summer and this fall. The Red winds and zig zags. At one place you may be looking west across the river and you're in North Dakota looking at Minnesota. Or looking east from Minnesota to North Dakota. It can be confusing. I know the river runs from south to north, but at one point I threw a twig into the current and it drifted the wrong way, headed south on that curve, but ultimately north.

Lindenwood has Roger Maris Drive for walking or driving and a small monument with a huge photo and the facts and figures of the Roger Maris legend. Also, monuments worth reading and reflections on North Dakota's submarine sailors in World War II.

Cross the Sertoma Freedom Bridge, a footbridge across the Red and you're in Gooseberry Park in Moorhead, open and spacious.

Throughout the parks are playgrounds, picnic tables, public restrooms, benches for just sitting, walking paths, and everywhere you look, folks are walking, riding bikes, pushing baby buggies and strollers, towing dogs, jogging, swinging in swings, sliding down slides and taking pictures of kids. I'm deficient in identifying colors, but I saw some brilliant golds and oranges. Just lovely. And have you noticed that when little kids are having fun, they never walk, they run and skip from place to place. And have you noticed that when adults use a park on a Sunday afternoon in the autumn they move at a happy, comfortable relaxed half speed?

Lots of people in the parks look like they maybe fairly new to our country. It's a diverse crowd. It's diverse because the park is open, fun, natural, free, available to everyone and cared for. There are signs and monuments that credit the builders and supporters. Hats off to all of them.

Every town, village, city and metropolis in this land worth living in has a park open to everyone. There is only one Boston Common (the first) and only one Central Park, but each settlement has to reserve a patch of grass for a few swings, a bench, a picnic table, a fire pit and a place to walk or sit outside the four walls at home. Any city or town without a park is a city or town without a soul. If you have a park, go there and sit a spell. Take your kids or go alone. Take your sweetheart. Take your bike, take a blanket and a book, take your puppy (along with a lease, a scoop and a plastic bag). Take your time. Use your park. Love your park (I love mine). Don't let anybody sell it, abandon it, pave it over, turn it into a parking lot, ignore it or abuse it. And thank God for the pioneers who set it aside in the beginning.