When my son was in middle school in the early 2000s, we had moved from the county into town and Chris was enjoying the benefits of being a neighborhood kid. This meant having a bicycle and friends who also had bikes — giving them just enough freedom to be away from their parents as long as they didn’t leave the neighborhood and try to ride on busy streets.
I remember days when they ran like a pack, occasionally going from house to house to scour pantries and refrigerators. I did the same thing 30 years earlier in Givens Addition, the neighborhood across Little River and less than a minute as the crow flies from Chris’ childhood haunt, where my husband and I still live.
Recently, it dawned on me how those boys would have made excellent use of Hopkinsville’s rail-trail if it had been developed 20 years ago when they were prime bicycle-riding age. Our house isn’t far from the rail-trail extension that opened last fall. I can imagine the boys enjoying another level of freedom and exploration by riding their bikes to the rail-trail, over the long pedestrian bridge at Country Club Lane and all the way across town to another section of the river near the public library downtown.
They could have met up with more friends in other neighborhoods that border today’s Hopkinsville Greenway, and I wouldn’t have worried because the rail-trail would have kept them off the streets that I knew were too busy with distracted drivers.
Once they got to the end of the rail-trail at the library, it would have been a quick pedal over to the splash pad in Little River Park or to Ferrell’s for cheeseburgers.
So why did I re-imagine my son’s childhood two decades after the fact with the addition of a new Hopkinsville amenity?
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Probably because I’m still taken with the benefits of the city’s greenway and how residents of all ages are finding new ways to take advantage of it.
One of those new uses is a weekly walk that the public library has organized. It starts at 8:30 a.m. every Friday outside the library and heads up the river trail that connects to the rail-trail. Together, these comprise the Hopkinsville Greenway.
The first walk, on April 2, had a small group. There were more, about 10 walkers, on Friday. They included Kim Allen of WHVO Radio, who did a live-remote talk with Eddie Owen back in the station.
Library Director DeeAnna Sova told me she recognizes the strategic advantage of the library being next to the greenway.
“We are so much more than books,” Sova said of the library’s mission. “It’s a place to gather people … a safe place where you can learn and educate yourself and others.”
Many libraries now operate as a hub for the community they serve, and that’s true in Hopkinsville, said Sova.
“We are in a great spot,” she said.
The Friday walks will occasionally have special guests to talk about something of interest in Hopkinsville. It could be the mayor, the sheriff or a local writer, said Sova.
“We will accommodate the pace of the walkers,” she said. “We are not there to run a race.”
That’s a good plan for grown-up walkers out for a Friday morning stroll with the town librarian. But I do like to imagine how middle school kids can race their bikes on the rail-trail, getting just far enough from home to feel like they’ve achieved some newfound freedom and a bigger view of their hometown.