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Where the "It" City Got It Wrong

I live in the "IT" city.  It's a small town filled with big dreams.  I guess you could call me a transplant, but I consider myself to be at home as I grew up a mere 40 miles south of here.  Growing up, we spent a lot of time in Nashville - dentist and doctor appointments, dining out, theater performances and shopping.  It was natural for my husband, also a Middle Tennessee native, and I to move here after getting married and having kids.  Through the years the city has drastically changed, mostly for the better, though sometimes I wonder at the small things that we have lost.

Nashville is now home to an NFL team, an NHL team and boasts so many new museums, tourist attractions and city-funded ventures sure to draw hipsters, families and dreamers from all of the country if not the world.  This is not even to mention the restaurants.  It's not fornothing that we are the "it" city.  We have become a foodie's dream as well.  (Okay, this I don't mind so much.)  After years of being subjected to the O'Charley's of the world (Nashville is their headquarters as well) and having only a few local haunts (goodbye Sunset Grill), we finally have a fantastic selection of restaurants and coffee joints rivaling any major city.  You may be scratching your head at this point and wondering what I have to complain about.  Truthfully, I find living in Nashville very exciting.  It is a beautiful city with three back to back mayors who have focused on revitalizing the city in  meaningful ways.  And, with Mayor Karl Dean's commitment to making Nashville as "green" as possible it is a wonderful place to live. 

It's a small thing, really.  Small in comparison to say, a new AAA baseball field.  Or, small in regards to a new downtown ampi-theater.  You see, we aren't really football fans.  We don't attend hockey games.  We do occasionally attend Nashville Sounds baseball games - mostly with my son's Boy Scout troop or some other organization who is using a game as a social event.  Let's stop there and talk about the new Sounds stadium.  According to "the Metro Council and the Metro Sports Authority approved a $65 million municipal financing plan to cover the city's share of ballpark costs."  Now, add an additional $10 million to that cost and we are close to the actual cost as well as the grand-opening of the park.  I am sure we will enjoy the new park the one or two times each year we attend games.  However, based on never having seen the old park more than 50% full at any game (and it is a nice park) I cannot quite wrap my mind around the steep price tag.   But, the cost of the park is not really the point.

The point is what we don't have, or rather what we had but lost.  It's a playground.  I can see why the city thought we wouldn't miss it.  Who needs a big neighborhood playground when you have the new Cumberland Park at a cost of approximately $16 million (see image below) or the soon to be opened West Riverfront Park - at a cost of $35 million?  I mean, there is nothing than I love better than taking my folding chair to an ampi-theater (I still miss Starwood) and listening to good music or driving into downtown for an afternoon playdate where the children can soak themselves in the fountains or climb 'til their hearts content.  The fact that these parks are a mere 6 miles from my home makes them even more appealing.  However, I would also really like to walk over to our neighborhood park with my kiddos for an afternoon of fun without worrying about how much it will cost me to park my car or constantly watching the time to be sure we leave before the three hours of rush hour traffic make what should be a 10 minute drive turn into 45 minutes. There are other parks we could visit.  There is Centennial Park (where we have and will continue to spend hours), which we love and is currently being remodeled at the cost of $6 million (see a theme here?).  The problem is that all of these parks being built or revitalized are in the interior of the city.  And again, though in miles they may not be far, they can be quite a drive during much of the day.

I guess you can see why I say it's a small thing.  You see we live next to one of Nashville's largest green spaces - Two Rivers Park.  TRP is a 374 acre park boasting greenways, a disc golf course, wave pool, golf course, a dog park (don't even get me started) and at one time housed a beautiful, big, multi-age wooden play structure that was built by the residents of Donelson.  It was community built and my children loved it.  If you've read my blog for a while you know I have a 13 year old and 9 year old.  This playground was great for both kids.  With wonderful places to allow for even the most fierce game of hide and seek, swings, slides, climbing bars, monkey bars - it was a dream for every parent and child looking for an afternoon of fun.  Through no fault of its own, it was also in a state of disrepair.  And now, it is gone. 

(Below you will see two images of the playground not long before it was torn down.  The third image is one of  a similar playground across town - Red Caboose - who may be facing a similar fate depending on the decision of the new high school plans the city is proposing.)

Our playground has been replaced by this sad excuse (not holding back) for a playground most suited for the 3 to 6 year old crowd.  To be honest, at this part of my blog post, I have few words to truly express how sad and angry and frustrated I am at this loss.  This has been a long time coming.  When I woke up recently to see the news that Mayor Dean has requested another $1 million to support the Grammy addition to the Musicians Hall of Fame, I made the decision to not take it anymore.  I appreciate the business of running a city.  I know our leaders want to bring in money and jobs.  But, what our leaders are failing to realize is that families like mine have a stake in this, too.

We are the homeowners, wage earners, the care-takers of the city's most precious resource; we are the car-poolers and the Scout parents, the bake-saler;  we are also the folks who infuse this economy with a great deal of money and we count too.  I'm not a hipster though I hang out with hip people.  I'm not involved in local politics, though my husband and I are both very involved in local organizations with our volunteer work.  I have been to the Musicians Hall of Fame, but it was only to look at an event space for a large fundraiser I was hosting (and let me say it is a beautiful way to re-energize Municipal Auditorium).  I do go to the popular local restaurants and you may see my hubby and I or my girlfriends at I having drinks in the Gulch.  But, you'll find me more often in the car hauling children around, at a local park or at the farmer's market when not in my own garden or sitting at the kitchen table homeschooling my kids.  In short, WE ARE NASHVILLE, too and we want our playground back.  Today if possible.  

So, Mayor Dean and city leaders and 2015 mayoral candiates, if you are reading this, I want you to consider investing in my community.  I mean, thanks for all you are doing.  You are certainly not getting rich doing it.  And, having sat on boards requiring me to steer organizations I know that your decisions are not easy, especially at the level at which you are doing it.  Thanks for having vision and turning this city around when so many cities are finding themselves amid decay and turmoil.  What I want is a small thing really in the scheme of so many large projects around the city.  So, if you could  help in this small matter, I would greatly appreciate it.

Yours Truly,

Dana Croy

Resident of Hip Donelson


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