Growing up in Central California, it is easy to forget that everyone doesn’t have access to parks. They are such an integral part of our quality of life; it is easy to take them for granted – unless, of course, you’ve ever lived in other places around the country.
For as long as I can remember, parks have been part of my life. As a kid, they were places to find the best swings in town; as a teenager, they were places to go with friends to listen to music or share a summer picnic. If you fast-forward to today, my time at the park tends to be more ordinary; spending an hour or so walking by myself or with friends. It is a favorite way to end a beautiful summer day.
McKinley has become my park of choice, not because it is in my neighborhood (it isn’t) but because it exemplifies so many things that are right with our community. It seems to welcome people of all ages and incomes with a variety of activities. At any given time, you can find people watching the ducks, playing baseball, soccer or tennis, walking their pets, learning yoga, visiting the library and, if you are really lucky, you might even see a wedding in the rose garden. I’ve never been to a wedding there, but love the idea of a couple starting their lives together in one of the area’s most majestic outdoor settings.
If you spend much time at McKinley Park, you run into people who have been using the park for decades. They may have been the ones who were the most devastated last year when the playground was destroyed by an arsonist. But they needn’t have worried, because within moments, people were coming together with hopes of building again, making the play area better than ever. There were generous contributions from Sutter Children’s Center and the city of Sacramento, but in total over 2,000 people gave time and money. This summer a fabulous new playground opened, housing as many as 70 different activities.
As the years go on, there will probably be an inclination to take the new playground for granted, just as we do other things that make it special to live in Sacramento. But for some, memories of McKinley Park will include the time they helped build a playground.