Monday, January 31, 2011

The Devil's Millhopper No More?

Even though we live in Oregon now, Jay and I still read the online newspapers from various Florida towns. I could say it's because we want to keep up with the current events in our old home towns, but we mainly do it to see if anyone we know ever gets arrested. (What, you guys don't do that?) Anyway, I was shocked and saddened to read that because of budget cuts the state of Florida may be forced to close down many state parks, one of them being The Devil's Millhopper.

If you've been reading here for a while, you'll know how much my family and I loved going to this park, traipsing through the woods, and walking down (and up again) the many steps leading to the bottom of the sinkhole. (Don't know what I'm talking about? Go here or here.) I mentioned the park just a handful of times here on the ol' blog, but there are many more times we went there as a family that I never wrote about. I'd venture to say we went at least once a month, no matter the season. We went on holidays when we knew there wouldn't be many people there and we could enjoy the quiet and peacefulness. We went in the middle of rainstorms because the wet, lush greenery made us think we were in the middle of a rain forest. We went in the evenings when it was cool(ish) and we went in the middle of the day in the summertime when the mosquitoes were so bad we had to practically bathe in bug spray just to keep them off.

There were so many days when my family was sitting around bored, doing nothing, and someone would suggest going to the sinkhole and we would all be up for it. I remember the girl, just a few years old, being carried on Jay's shoulders because her short, little legs couldn't handle all the many steps. It wasn't long though, before she could do all 250 of them on her own. The Devil's Millhopper was such a huge part of my family's life. It breaks my heart that there is a possibility that other families won't be able to make similar happy memories.

I don't know why this issue is getting me so worked up. Maybe it's because I'm just feeling emotional. Maybe it's because right now I'm reading Richard Louv's Last Child in the Woods and it's reminding me how important unstructured outdoor play is for kids (and adults). But I think it may have something to do with an incident that occurred yesterday.

Jay was off from work and we decided to go back to Multnomah Falls and take another stab at hiking up the mountain. Half way to the top, the girl decided she couldn't do anymore so she and Jay went back down while the boy and I carried on, despite being slightly out of breath and having aching buns and thighs. Once at the top, as we stood on the look out deck literally in the clouds, my son threw his arms around me, gave me a big kiss, and said, "We made it to the top Mom! I'm so proud of myself!" Without access to that park, my son wouldn't have been able to feel that pride and I wouldn't have been able to share that moment with him.

We're lucky now. Although I certainly can't predict the future, Oregonians young and old, liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, all seem to take their natural spaces pretty seriously. Here, nature is respected and appreciated. Shame on Florida for even considering screwing its residents out of the right to enjoy nature. Once again, I'm forced to utter the phrase, "I'm glad I don't live there anymore."


Maria Rose said...

That's sad.

Stephanie Meade Gresham said...

Cedar Key is one of my old faves that might be closing, too. I'd just like to say that I didn't vote for Rick Scott.

And I'll try my best to get my family to Devil's Millhopper before it's NO MORE. For you. And for us.

Stay tuned...I smell some much needed adventure!

Dani said...

That is sad. You'd think there would be some other form of wasteful spending that could be cut.


Jessie at Luna Pacifica said...

T! I love this post! I love the boy's reaction! Empowered little man.

You have to have to have to make a trip up here to see Deception Pass. My FAVORITE place in the world. We can do a ski to sea trip. Start at Mount Baker, hit the agricultural fields, then the water.

Yay for the west coast.
Sorry about your beloved place. :-(

~ The Jolly Bee ~ said...

It's good to get worked up about an issue you feel strongly about. I felt the same way when NYS wanted to close a bunch of parks here. The General Nicholas Herkimer Home (big-time ties to the Revolutionary War) was slated to be closed last summer, but a bunch of locals protested loudly and were heard. We have many fond memories of picnics, maple sugaring, bike rides and more from that place. I would be crushed to think it would be taken away.

I just hope this country gets its house in order and focuses on what matters to the people.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I love love love that The Boy felt that way. That gave me goose bumps Tammie. You should be so proud as well.

I don't understand the things people always jump to cut like money for this park or the arts in school or gym class for heaven's sake. It's so short sighted. As my hubby likes to say, Nature is his church and his soul couldn't live without it.

Thanks for a great post. I'd send it to the local newspaper in florida if it would help.

Lia said...

Oh! The image of your big giant baby boy hugging and kissing you on the top of that mountain made me teary!

So sad that there's so much shit going on like this all over the country. Here, we're all mourning the possible loss of awesome and adorable neighborhood schools.

Like Dani said, there must be some other spending to cut.

Tammie said...

stephanie: i was sad to see that about cedar key as well. that was such a popular destination that i cant believe anyone would consider closing it.

jessie: that sounds wonderful!

jodi: its so exciting when youre able to make a difference like that isnt it? and i agree, i dont understand the idea of cutting funding to something everyone can enjoy.

peggy: thank you so much for the kind words. i think my boy has a similar viewpoint about nature, although he might not fully realize it yet. hes not good at team or organized sports, but for him being in nature calms yet challenges him.

Bridge said...

This is a sad situation. I know here in colorado we are facing huge cuts. The parks budget is on the block for sure, but in reality we have the same type of nature loving individuals conservative and liberal. I hope this makes a difference.

hester said...

I've never heard of public parks being closed before. That's so sad. But so wonderful that your boy has inherited your love of nature. And he'll probably give it to his kids one day.

I'm glad you've been inspired by "Last Child in the Woods". I thought it was great that someone wrote such a well researched and passionate book about childhood and nature.

sitting on the mood swing at the playground said...

I love the boy's reaction when you hit the top!

That's so sad about the FL state park. We live in the city and are very aware how lucky we are to have a huge park/forest just a few blocks away. It's a wonderful escape to go into the woods for a walk, bike ride, hike or run and simply take in air that feels nicer on the soul.