A Walk In The Park

August 20, 2014

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Yesterday, I showed you several photos of our new park, but I saved the best story for today. Have you ever seen a congressman go down a corkscrew slide? Here’s the short report I did for Gulf Coast Newspapers . . .

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen asked the riveting question, “Which piece of playground equipment would you run to first if you were a little boy for a day,” both Congressman Bradley Byrne and School Board Member -Elect Cecil Christenberry chose the daunting tower with corkscrew slide. The tallest and most intimidating apparatus in the park, it immediately drew their attention.

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The rededication ceremony at The Fairhoper’s Park drew a large crowd on a hot summer morning to celebrate the updated park which now features a bubbling splash-pad and accessible swings, spinning tops, gliders and slides, all with a bright blue sailing theme. Designed by the popular local architect firm, Walcott Adams Verneuille, with input from children and community volunteers, the park is a state-of-the-art source of pride for the entire Eastern Shore.

IMG_0209Governor Robert Bentley, who gave the opening remarks before the ribbon cutting, said if he were a young boy for the day, he would also choose the tower, but would quickly join in the fun at the splash pad, which makes sense on a hot August day. Alabama’s First Lady, Dianne Bentley pondered the thought of being a little girl once more and said she would choose the swings as her first stop of the day. “I always loved to swing when I was a little girl,” she said with a smile.

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But after the Governor had (wisely) disappeared into the friendly crowd, both Congressman Byrne and former Fairhope City Council member Christenberry gazed up at the tall tower and laughed about how fun it would be to scamper to the top. The next few minutes were innocent enough, until someone mentioned the words, “dare” and then, “double-dog-dare,” which is Southern-speak for, “Now ya’ gotta’ do it!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuddenly, things became very interesting in the park, as the young-at-heart community leaders, with a twinkle in their eyes were on their way to the top of the bright blue tower. Children took it in stride that the two adults were suddenly joining in on the fun, reminding us how the youngest among us are always so accepting.

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Standing at the highest point in the entire park and realizing the only way down was to proceed with the long, tubular slide or face the children on the way back down the steps, the two grown men pressed on. Perhaps it’s this exact attitude of perseverance and confronting challenges, along with their willingness to try new things that makes these men good leaders. Their hands-on demonstration of leading by example certainly made new admirers out of the excited elementary onlookers. If eight year olds could vote, the two playful politicians would be in office for the rest of their lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe line was long, and the wait was hot, but zipping down the twisty slide on the first day the Fairhoper’s Park reopened was worth the climb, and also counts as yet another dicey task, diplomatically handled.

For Byrne and Christenberry, the “challenge of the slide” has served as an inspirational challenge that will surely make future political snarls seem like . . . a walk in the park.

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 This story first appeared in Gulf Coast Newspapers

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