Brookfield Basics

A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.

Wirth Park - Overly Familiar?

With his signature insight and keen wit, Mark Twain once remarked that "familiarity breeds contempt".  He later added, "and also children". 

The great American author and critic did not mean contempt in the literal sense.  His larger point I believe, was that as things become more and more familiar to us, we VALUE them less.  Oscar Wilde offered similar sentiments when he said, "we would appreciate a sunset more if we had to pay for it".

I believe both sentiments apply to Brookfield's Wirth Park, a one-hundred and forty five acre treasure in the heart of our community.  Acquired in 1961 and named after the City's first Mayor, it boasts over 100,000 visitors annually.


Sunday, January 11th was a beautiful day; one that gave us a much needed reminder that in addition to her scourge, winter brings beauty to grace us.  It was a glorious day - no wind, sunshine, and moderate temperatures in the mid 20's.  Shaking off our mid-winter lethargy, the four of us headed to the Park.  Each year the City turns a portion of the north parking lot into a large skating rink, and we arrived to a texture of sounds, including the cries of kids passing the puck, the slashing and swooshing of their skates on the ice, and the clacking of their wooden sticks on the vulcanized rubber.  Our kids went skating and Barb and I strapped on our skis. There is nothing quite so affirming in mid-January as the sound of your skis sluicing through the dazzingly bright snow, while feeling sweat course down your face and neck.  We returned to the rink, and our daughter joined me in some more skiing, while Barb and our son headed for the hill for some snow-boarding.  It was fabulous fun and great exercise at the same time.  And beyond the portion of our property taxes that go towards the Park, we paid not a dime for it. 


While skiing I was struck by the thought of how many times we have enjoyed the park, but how few times we have appreciated it, which brings us back to Twain's quote.  Because it is so familiar, because we drive by it countless times a month, it becomes less and less VALUABLE to us.  It's just there - a big chunk of land between Calhoun and Pilgrim.  

But nearly fifty years ago some planners had the foresight to secure this land and designate its use.  And as result, today we have a fabulous aquatic center, tennis courts, a skateboarding park, football, soccer, and baseball fields, two sledding hills, and acres of open space to hike and ski and reflect.  And perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to shed the claptrap of our electronic devices, and instead, let the glories of nature speak to us.

Wirth Park is a community treasure.

So as the travel advertisement says, let's "GET OUT THERE".

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