Last Sunrise at Jacobson Park Playground

Feb18eOn February 18 I made one of my nearly twice a week (or more) treks to Jacobson Park to catch the sunrise, the blue herons and the peace of the lake.  This is a Joy Point spot for me where I can take a breath, relax and meditate in my own way.

On that day I personally witnessed and photographed the sad and heartbreaking destruction and teardown of a well-known landmark in Lexington — the beloved Jacobson Park Playground was being torn down.
A Bobcat digs into the wooden playground equipment on Feb. 18

A Bobcat digs into the wooden playground equipment on Feb. 18

Crews work on the teardown of beloved playground

Crews work on the teardown of beloved playground

Two of my grandchildren playing "Drive Thru Restaurant" in one of the many cubby holes.

Two of my grandchildren playing “Drive Thru Restaurant” in one of the many cubby holes in 2014

I knew it might be coming soon, but had hoped that the outcry from residents via the Save Jacobson Park Playground Facebook Page and other sites would have had some impact.  In fact, in support of keeping this park, back in September 2014 I was asked to publish an article regarding the playground and I wrote my feelings then and continue to have those feelings that this was something that should have remained as it promoted creativity and independence for the children that played on this playground. The article was published in the local Hamburg Journal. All to no avail.

My family enjoying the fun playground in the mid 1990s

My own family enjoying the fun playground in 1998

For at least the 20 years that my family has lived in the Lexington area, we have frequented this playground at Jacobson Park as have 1000s of other families.

I began taking my own children there a number of years ago and more recently I have frequented the park often with my grandchildren over the last five or six years. I make treks to Jacobson Park almost daily to photograph the wildlife and the beauty of the lake in the tranquility. The natural setting of the playground added to that.

THREE GENERATIONS OF ENJOYMENT

Family on Park Playground Equipment in mid 1990s

Family on Park Playground Equipment in 1998

My grandchildren enjoying the park in 2014

My grandchildren enjoying the park in 2014

Youngest granddaughter Lyla clings to one of the many wooden posts in 2014

Youngest granddaughter Lyla clings to one of the many wooden posts in 2014

Climbing high in 2014. Lots of entertainment and imagination

Climbing high in 2014. Lots of entertainment and imagination

Grandson Landen runs along one of the plank walks

Grandson Landen runs along one of the plank staircases

I have personally spent many hours sitting on one of the wooden benches in the with my back to the lake and my eyes to the playground watching the joyful and playful attitude of not only my grandchildren and children, but dozens and dozens of other kids. All of the children that played here became instant friends and they would play hide and seek, or pirate ships or other such games.  The design of the equipment evoked creativity.

The City of Lexington has laid out plans to create a new playground that is compatible with ADA (American Disability Act) standards (see detailed plans here), but many of us that have reviewed those plans were sorely disappointed in what will replace what was probably the most iconic and entertaining playground in the city of Lexington.  Hundreds, if not 1000s of Lexington residents felt as though the city could have added upon the current structure rather than spend the money to tear down what was still a viable and enjoyable structure for many.  The entire project is costing nearly $500,000. For the half million dollars being spent on this project, the original structures could have been added to and improved many times over and an ADA viable playground addition could have been constructed…in my opinion.
A billboard at the park details the future playground, scheduled for June 2016

A billboard at the park details the future playground, scheduled for June 2016

Outcry as seen on Facebook. Over 680 shares from my Feb. 18 post

Outcry as seen on Facebook. Over 600 shares from my Feb. 18 post

Some comments from a different Facebook post show the sadness

Some comments from a different Facebook post show the sadness of the community

To add to the disappointment of this icon being torn down is the fact that the new playground won’t have the natural feel of wood that fits in so nicely with the natural characteristics of Jacobson Lake and Jacobson Park. There’s a part of me that just cannot imagine geese and blue herons hanging around plastic playground equipment.
A Blue Heron flies by the playground in 2015

A Blue Heron flies by the playground in early Feb. 2016

Token remnant of the current playground that will remain, but will not be accessible for play any longer.

Token remnant of the current playground that will remain, but will not be accessible for play any longer.

But, as a token of the historic nature of the park, the City has left a couple of pieces to serve as a “landmark.”  To many it will serve as a sad reminder of by-gone days of fun, creativity and play.

Following are a few more photos I have taken over the years of this wonderful playground and included at the end are the final days, if not the final day of this playground.
The Spires if the Playground

The Spires if the Playground

A view of Jacobson Lake as seen from a bench on the playground

A view of Jacobson Lake as seen from a bench on the playground

The playground as viewed in January 2016 after a snowfall

The playground as viewed in January 2016 after a snowfall

Geese look at the demolition (with sadness I am sure)

Geese look at the demolition (with sadness I am sure)

Remnants of the structure as seen on Feb. 20

Remnants of the structure as seen on Feb. 20

The last day of the structure on the morning of Feb. 18, 2016

The last day of the structure on the morning of Feb. 18, 2016

1000s of memories into the dumpster on February 18

1000s of memories into the dumpster on February 18

An Ode to America

SumoflamUSAAs we approach Independence Day 2014 I look at my country with different eyes than I did 20 or 30 years ago.  We have gone through some tough times as a country and these have impacted each of us at a personal level.

The economy is tougher than it has been in years and many of us, including me, have gone through job losses, economic difficulties and more. It has not been a fun ride.

Yet, we move on and we survive.  We find ways to make it.  Despite the political and ideological differences that sometimes divide our diverse population (as can be seen be all of the banter on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc.), we still come together as a country.

LambertsCafeOzarkMOThis became very clear to me as I traveled across America during May and June of this year. Whether in the plains of North Dakota, the swamps of Louisiana, the mountains of Wyoming or the impoverished deltas of Mississippi, the flag hung high, people were Americans (and not political parties, races or otherwise).  All spoke their dialects of English (and indeed, American English in Minnesota is different than that of American English in a small town in Southern Mississippi or in central Nebraska).

EStLouisILUltimately, I am grateful to live in this free country.  I can gripe about rising gas prices, Obama’s political agendas, dramatic inflation, bad roads or anything else.  But, I have the right and freedom to gripe if I desire…it is my inalienable right in this country.  Something many other countries don’t have.

I have the freedom to drive across this great nation without discrimination and go through the Blackfeet Reservation, a Cajun community and predominantly Scandinavian community or a small mid-American farm town and still feel these freedoms and experience others enjoying them.

So, despite any challenges, I believe it is time for me and all of us to Fall in Love with America again.  So, here is an ode to America by my good friend Antsy McClain.  It was his reminiscence of experiences while loving in America. I was fortunate enough to work with Antsy in producing and making this video. I hope you enjoy it.

My State of the Union Address – Things are Not Good

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night. No need to. I see the State of the Union every day and it is not good.

Rich CEOs pushing talent out

Rich CEOs pushing talent out

I have witnessed the greed of corporate CEOs who eliminate talented and skilled individuals from companies in order to better the bottom line so that they, the CEOs, can get a larger, more lucrative bonus.

Corrupt Politicians

Corrupt Politicians

I have seen the corruption of politicians (both on the right and on the left) who use their political office for gain and prestige rather than to serve the constituency that voted them in.  They offer unachieveable promises to get into office and then make excuses and play the blame game when they can’t come through…even though they really did not intend to in the first place.

Middle Class Being Dumped

Middle Class Being Dumped

I have witnessed firsthand how the middle class is being pushed lower and lower. I have seen how companies are eliminating their talented and skilled American employees in order to hire much cheaper overseas staff to do the business at a much lesser cost, all in the effort to make sure that the upper crust of the company keeps their lucrative bonuses. I am seeing these same, now unemployed or under-employed middle-class individuals search for employment in their own country, only to be turned down over and over again because they are “overqualified,” “too old,” or “overweight.” I further see these talented and skilled Americans not finding work for more than six months and then companies again not hiring them because “they have not been employed over a lengthy period of time.”

Keep Calm

Keep Calm and Keep Flipping Burgers

I have seen the skilled labor force of the middle-class become disillusioned. I have seen them struggling to pay their bills. I have seen them them lose dignity, and, in their desire to keep some sense of dignity, they end up taking low-paying non-benefit jobs such as burger flipping, pizza delivery, slave labor in a call center, or cashier jobs and a big box store.

Bill Gates on Dignity

Bill Gates on Dignity

In the 1960s and 1970s perhaps flipping burgers and working cashier jobs provided opportunity.  Not today…  Most of these jobs do not provide any benefits, most provide no insurance, and typically most do not even provide full-time employment so they can avoid all of the costs and make the bottom line better and keep their bonuses. Sorry Bill…in today’s world, a burger flipper doesn’t typically reach the poverty level…

Walmart Wages

Walmart Wages

I see these people having to go to their 401(k) retirement plans and remove the money early so that they can take care of their house payments and their other obligations because they no longer make enough now on these low minimum wage paying jobs. I then see our government giving heavy tax burdens to these people who have withdrawn 401(k) funds early in order to take care of their obligations rather than to go on welfare. I am seeing the middle class being punished.

WelfareAt the same time, I am seeing this same government using those heavy taxes taken from the middle class underemployed who are trying to be responsible and dignified citizens, and using that money to take care of the continuously increasing number of people who stay home all day to watch Oprah or Jerry Springer or soap operas, while getting social welfare, food stamps, and other forms of government welfare while they provide nothing to society.  Of course, come voting time, we know who they will vote for…the guy that gives them money for nothing…

Welfare moneyI am seeing our government force the middle class to lose hope such that the middle class ends up filing bankruptcy and not having a way out any longer.  They are just being forced into accepting social welfare or trying to go out on their own.  Indeed, the government tells us that Unemployment numbers are going down. What they fail to point out is that the job sectors filling the jobs are the low wage non-benefit types.  Middle class jobs are just not there, and, when they are, the companies don’t want to hire the very skilled “has beens.” So hope continues to be lost. People are fighting for jobs….

Fight for JobsSo you have a whole crew of very experienced, very educated, and very talented individuals who are having to become entrepreneurs as well as they can.  They create the opportunities and invest their fast dwindling savings into businesses, only to be heavily taxed again by doing so.  And the welfare recipients still sit at home and get paid monthly to watch Dr. Phil and Judge Judy.

Self-employment TaxI have also seen how the middle-class Americans have lost healthcare and are now being forced into getting government sanctioned healthcare.

IncreaseCrimeLike many Americans, I am seeing an increasing crime rate across the country. More and more people are using guns to kill others commit robberies and violent crimes against spouses and others.

AmericanDreamOur country is in a shambles. It seems as though everyone is out for themselves and not caring about their neighbors any longer. The rich continue to barrier themselves away from the rest of the classes so that they can continue to enjoy the indulgences at everyone else’s expense. I even see many of the “wealthy” entrepreneurs working to tell people to go into business on their own and enjoy the luxuries of life and the benefits of more time to do what they want. However, quietly, these same network marketers purchase real estate and rent at high rental rates to the growing middle-class who can’t afford to live in a home any longer.  Indeed, even these entrepreneurs continue to get wealthier at the expense of the middle class.

I continue to work on my own now in the hope that we will survive these scary times. I do count my blessings.

Falling ApartBut, at the same time, I have witnessed the state of the union and it isn’t good.