I drive past Lincoln Park in York City several times a day, at least. And, beyond a handful of young guys occasionally playing basketball, I rarely see anyone using the park.
I've always thought that was sad, because Lincoln Park is a darned nice park. It'd be terrific if people would use it, even if it was nothing more than dangling their feet into the creek on very hot days or reading a book on a breezy afternoon.
Because I do recall a time when Lincoln Park was used to its maximum capacity. Hundreds of people milling around, playing in the creek, using every picnic table, taking advantage of the playground equipment, enjoying their day in the sun.
OK, that might have been 55 years ago, but it happened.
Some of my favorite childhood memories have to do with family events, cookouts and holiday gatherings being held at Lincoln Park. And my dad's family was a large one -- lots of kids, lots of grandkids.
Believe it or not, back in those days we actually had to send a family member to the park early -- at least by 8 a.m. -- to plop down a lawn chair and lay claim to one or two picnic tables and a charcoal grill.
Otherwise, by 11 a.m., they'd all be taken, and the Hicks family would be out of luck.
It was probably illegal, or at least unfair, to do that, but hey, if you wanted to play games, eat grilled burgers and hot dogs at noon, it was essential to have secured enough turf ahead of time to accommodate 25 kids and adults.
Those were the good old days, I guess.
It's been a bunch of years since the Hicks family has gone to the park as a group. But I think of it just about every time I pass Lincoln Park.
Can't help myself.
And Lincoln Park, today, is probably nicer in many ways -- the playground equipment and play areas, for sure -- than it was 55 years ago. More modern. Kid friendly. That is the result of the efforts made by Adrienne Brenner and her group, Bring On Play (BOP), which raised funds a few years ago to create new playground areas for the kids.
It was a lot of money -- about $200,000, if I remember correctly. And it's a job well done.
Except that I don't see as many people using Lincoln Park as I think should.
But then I passed the park last Monday shortly after lunch, and it was loaded with people. Old people, young people, kids, moms and dads, all colors, all shapes, all sizes. And all were there enjoying what Lincoln Park has to offer in the middle of the day.
I'm telling you, it's been a lot of years since I've seen that many people at Lincoln Park at the same time.
Maybe I've just got bad timing, I don't know.
But seriously, there must have been several hundred people sitting, standing, playing, walking about.
So being the nosy type that I am, I stopped my car, got out and walked over to the park to see what was going on.
Turns out I must not have been paying attention to the community calendar. Not closely enough, anyway.
If I had, I'd have known the reason for all those people was the sixth annual Day of Play at Lincoln Park. I guess I missed the first five.
It's a Bring On Play project, but they had plenty of volunteer help from SecureCorps, an AmeriCorps program, and the United Way of York County.
The reason? Well, they were encouraging kids to get outdoors and be active. Get a little fresh air into their lungs. Get the blood pumping through their veins.
Children of all ages rotated through a series of play stations that included a bounce house, sack races and an obstacle course. Or they could do just about anything they wanted to do as long as it involved play.
So I walked around and watched. Then I sat down and watched. I'm a watcher by nature, so it was wonderful to spend 45 minutes taking it all in. A bunch of well-preserved folks like me did the same thing.
And the kids were having a great time.
Seriously, it was the highlight of my day, all those people taking advantage of Lincoln Park again. And there were probably almost as many adults there, as kids.
Brought back a lot of memories, I can tell you that.
Makes a person wonder why there couldn't be a Day of Play at all of the city parks at least once a week. Some on Mondays. Some on Tuesdays. Some ... well, you get my drift. A Day of Play somewhere in the city every day of the week.
That way everyone can get in on the fun.
Columns by Larry A. Hicks, Dispatch columnist, run Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.