On most Tuesday mornings I arrive at the office with wet hair. These are the mornings I run on the trail at Lake Johnson Park on Avent Ferry Road. The 2.82-mile trail around the lake is the perfect distance for me, and the hills present a welcome challenge to my routine. The beauty of the wooded park and the peacefulness of the lake add enjoyment to my workout. But while I go to Lake Johnson for the exercise, what I derive from the experience goes beyond physical well-being.
My mornings at Lake Johnson leave me with a renewed appreciation for community. I may be a solitary runner, but at Lake Johnson I am far from alone. Like me, many people are drawn there in the mornings to walk or jog or simply gaze over the lake. Joining me on the trail are children, parents, students and seniors – and, of course, lots of dogs. People of many races and ethnicities feel welcome and at ease here. I am entertained by the snatches of conversation I overhear along the trail, often in languages other than English — a sign of how international Raleigh has become.
Lake Johnson is a symbol of Raleigh’s commitment to providing spaces where people can enjoy the outdoors. In fact, the Parks and Recreation Department maintains more than 9,000 acres of parkland across the city. Like all of Raleigh’s parks, Lake Johnson contributes to the public health and beauty of our city; as important, it creates a widely diverse community of people who are connected to each other by a shared appreciation for this slice of nature.
After my run, I head to the Alexander Family YMCA on Hillsborough Street for a quick shower. (This explains the wet hair.) Again, I am struck by the beauty of place, the variety of its activities and the many people it attracts. The YMCA, too, is a gathering spot for people of all backgrounds and ages who come for fitness and fellowship.
Lake Johnson and the Y are among many assets of southwest Raleigh, an area that this blog describes as the CREATIVE district, using an acronym for communities, recreation, education, arts, technology, innovation, vision and entertainment. I like the values this description conveys. Though I do not live in southwest Raleigh, my life is enhanced by the treasures of this region, and I am grateful to consider myself among the members of its wider community.