Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bid Farewell to Hominy Creek Park

This morning I got out of bed and took the dogs to the secret park where I always take them. This is no surprise - I usually manage it at least three days a week. The only surprise was that when I got through the overgrown part of the park, I found - this.

A road. Or, maybe, a very wide paved bike path. In other words, my favorite spot in Asheville is going, going, gone. And I am sad.

I moved here 9 years ago. Back then, I could take my dogs to the French Broad River Park and not worry about a leash, because my dogs are friendly and back then, there was no leash law and, even more importantly, back then there was rarely anyone else at that park or at the long skinny unnamed park that you can access from the main part of the French Broad River Park. Back then, too, that access was via a sort of scary snaking trail that led windingly under Amboy Road and along the river and which always made me think about hobos and poison ivy and snakes and which I liked. That trail is neat and wide and sanitized now and nobody could be even slightly alarmed by it. Joggers like it. I don't, much.

I like areas that are overgrown and neglected; forgotten green spots that are just on the edges of civilization; scrubby woods under interstates and culverts with herons standing by them. I like seeing skunks and foxes and geese and herons and even coyotes in these power line limned explosions of tiny wilderness. I like walking through them in the morning when I'm not entirely awake as the dogs run and jump and swim and get the exercise and sniffing they need to be fully dogs, just as I need some green space and movement to be fully human. I'm not quite as keen on mowed lawns and tasteful landscaped plantings and cement walkways and signs instructing you on the animals that used to live there but hey, I recognize that many people are, and, well, whatever. I thought that there was room for both. I guess I was wrong about that.

First there were leash laws, which I mostly obey and then there was the dog park, which I hate, because it is too small and there are too many dogs and it's just a recipe for disaster. After the last time Theo was attacked there I stopped going. Also, I go with the dogs to walk myself, to take in some air and light and needed space, not to stand there awkwardly making dog oriented small talk. After the dog park came the droves of people and finally, it got to the point that all the river parks were crowded more or less 24/7, even in the dead of winter. There are still a few times, when it's cold enough, when it's early enough, when I can go there and walk and let the dogs run, but not often.

Look, I understand that the city is growing. I understand that parks are a Good Thing. Hell, I volunteered at the playground build at Carrier Park. Granted this was mostly because of a guy I was involved with at the time - actually, it was Satan. Yeah, Satan builds playgrounds in his spare time; go figure - but I went anyway and worked for a couple of hours and even got a T-shirt to prove it, so it's not that I'm against what I'm calling, for the purposes of this overly long blog post, civilized space. It's just that I need some wild space too.

Hominy Creek Park, which up until now stopped being civilized at the end of the mowed area and then had a long, overgrown trail area that led through nettles and poison ivy and shoulder high grass and berry bushes and cliffs and woods and by a strange, spooky little stone hut, eventually ending up at the RV campground on Amboy Road, was the perfect edge of wilderness. There was rarely anyone else there and I could let my dogs run as they pleased while I mused and stared into space and took, as you probably know, hundreds of pictures. Only once in several years of going there three or four times a week has somebody reprimanded me for letting my dogs run loose and I thought, although I did not say, "Dude, you have all of Asheville to jog in. I only have this one spot left to let my dogs jog. Can't we make a compromise here?"

I had heard rumors that Hominy Creek Park was not long for this world and apparently they were right. I was banking on the recession and simple apathy and lameness keeping the bulldozers at bay for longer but alas, I was wrong and they are there and now I will have to go much further afield, well out of the city limits, to find my green space, which means that I won't be doing it every morning or even three or four mornings a week anymore. That is too bad. I have lost something vital, here, and while I might be wrong, I feel that the city has lost something as well.

Asheville used to be a place that had both, civilized space and wild space, often coexisting as peacefully or as uneasily as a hipster at the Frog Bar and a street punk in front of Malaprops. Now, everything gets sanitized and beautified and civilized and the forces of mowed grass and tidy sidewalks take over every small place of wilderness that was left. I know, I like nice bars and coffee houses and flowers too - I am complicit in this ongoing niceification of my city. But I am also saddened and I wish there was some spot, some hidden green woods, left for me to explore; a quiet place to experience a little edge of wildness right here in the living city.


Gordon said...

This is a long-planned extension of the Greenways system, Fliss. I understand that there's to be another dog park put in the field at Hominy.

I'm going to miss it too. We've had the place to ourselves for so long, and it's the only place I can run Charlie off-leash.

For a year after the hurricanes of '04 I really had the place to myself. The road was closed and everything.

Gratuitous said...

I, too, find myself living in an unhappy compromise. After I divorced myself out of upper-middle class neighborhood living, I ended up living far enough away from downtown to be withing spitting distance of grand wilderness, yet I don't really have free access to it. My dogs settle for the half-acre jungle on my property, and they like the fenced-in field, but where's the adventure, the exploration?

I think my concern is in the concept of ownership. Can someone only be truly free on land they own? Gordon, you're a psycho therapist(!). Is everything under the sun a control issue?

I hear about kind-hearted folks with money buying land just to protect it from abuse. What, I gotta get cutthroat and make a bundle so I can buy enough to let my dogs run leash-less? We all pay for freedom, but does it always have to be in cash?

mygothlaundry said...

Another dog park doesn't solve the main problem though - for one thing, I hate dog parks. I want to walk around too, not just stand there while my dogs get attacked by other stressed out dogs. And I also do feel that yeah, I know it's a planned extension, etc., etc., but I wish that wild spaces on their own were seen as valuable as organized, civilized ones. Because I believe they have an intrinsic value to all of us.

Emily said...

Fliss,I JUST took the kids down there, we too were kinda bummed. We thought we were being sneaky by going the "back" way to the Sports Festival..it's a mess back there. Q calls it the Dead Body Park..

zen said...

Dang it Fliss, i keep wanting to show you the new dogwalk area that won't be part of the greenway until 2015, but it seems we walk dogs at different times...

a las doce said...

There's a cool little spot near me in W Asheville. I've heard it's 15 acres, although it doesn't seem that large to me. It's hard to get through so I don't know how it would be to bring dogs, but it's worth a visit.

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