Monday, June 3, 2013
National Trails Day and the BMI's of Children....
National Trails Day. June the First.
What's not to like about that? Is there anything more exciting than a hiking trail through the woods? Is there nothing more basic to the genetic impulse to wander? The Right To Roam usurps private property in my book. Owning a piece of the earth is less important than roaming that said piece of earth.
In celebration of the event, I took an anemic hike up the Oat Hill Mine Trail in Calistoga, California. Napa County, where Calistoga is located, is a text book example of how to manage land properly . There are "no growth" provisions. There are no "chain" restaurants once you venture north of Napa, the city, with the exception of a KFC that got grandfathered in when the "No Chain Restaurant" rule was passed by the County Supervisors. There are Ag setbacks from the Napa River which has led to salmon and steelhead re-entering, and spawning in, the river. The towns of Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville---all have prescribed city limits and cannot grow beyond certain "green lines". The whole county became an Agricultural Preserve in the later 1960's so that the valley would never become a bedroom community. They had the wisdom to do this before the Paris Tasting of 1976 that put the Napa Valley on the map as a premium wine production area.
What have limits to growth done? It made the way for the creation of a whole food movement that is taking the nation by storm. In a sense, Michael Pollan and Alice Waters are possible due to the foresight of the 1968 Agricultural Preservation bill. Housing values have boomed and have stayed high, unemployment is low, the schools are well funded, the restaurants are the best in the world and the Napa Valley is the third most popular tourist destination in California.
For those who think that Growth is the only way to economic prosperity, let the Napa Valley be the first evidence to the contrary. Community planning doesn't have to mean strip malls and 3,000 square foot houses with postage stamp lawns, no porches and three car garages that face the sidewalk-less street.
But trails. Back to trails. Both pedestrian and bike trails should be a part of every community's recreation plan. Right now we link towns by roads that carry automobiles. I think we should also have dedicated pedestrian and biking trails connect every community too. Right now we have only three long distance hiking trails (with two more in the planning stages); I think we should have thousands of long distance hiking trails. Every hamlet, town, community and city should be linked by dedicated bike and pedestrian paths. Complete with campsites. Hiking is good, cheap, healthy fun.
If we ever get smart enough to create a public works program again for the millions of unemployed people who sit home with their snack foods and EBT cards, let's put them to work building recreation and community with hiking and biking trails.
One last point: My hometown in Minnesota established a fifty mile bike/pedestrian trail thirty years ago. Last time I visited there, I saw a fine thing: No fat kids. I saw kids on bikes, outside, laughing and playing. They were everywhere. But I didn't see any obese children. The place is a healthy advertisement for the benefits of outside play. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that Communities that have bike and hiking trails that are actually used, have kids that have lower BMI's.