Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Stroll With Friends Through Sense Of Place

Last Saturday I took the annual three-mile curated and narrated walk led by John Schelp through several different neighborhoods including his beloved Old West Durham as well as Watts-Hillandale, Walltown, Trinity Heights and Trinity Park.

It served as a prelude to Preservation Durham’s 16th annual old home tour Saturday after next in Forest Hills.  I live in Rockwood on the cusp of Forest Hills and experience the best each neighborhood has to offer.

Both drain into park bottomland along tributaries of Third Fork Creek.  Forest Hills Park was first a golf course in the 1920s, often an alternative use for bottomlands which are below flood plains.

Today, both Rockwood and Forest Hills parks serve not only as forested respites and forums for family recreation but as invaluable tools to purify storm water run-off.

During John’s walk the historic yet thriving neighborhoods along the Ellerbe Creek side of the ridgeline dissecting Durham take center stage as a lens through which he weaves the rich history, archeology and geology of Durham while the homes and buildings along the way form a backdrop.

With the annual Preservation Durham old home tours, such as the one in Forest Hills on the 28th, the homes and their interiors, exteriors and grounds take center stage with the neighborhood as a backdrop.  Each perspective is invaluable.

Both Schelp’s neighborhood walks and PD’s old home tours give an extraordinary view into part of what makes Durham residents so passionate about their community and both are highly recommended for newcomers and tenured Durham residents alike.

John Schelp and I worked in tandem long before we ever actually met.  He’s an admitted extrovert but not the kind who has to be the center of every group’s attention.  John is proof again that the impact some people have on our lives greatly transcends how often we see them or how much or often we talk.

We moved to North Carolina about the same year more than two decades ago and he joined me in Durham a few years later.  We share a communications background and we both love and fiercely defend Durham.

We became acquainted by more than reputation and mutual causes less than a decade before last Saturday morning’s walk when he outed-me to his substantial community listserv.

Back then we both frequented Charlie’s Pub & Grille, viewed by some as a biker bar on Ninth Street only because so many incredible motorcycles often line each side of the street there, part of the eclectic, organic charm of that uniquely Durham District.

Who knows, maybe that was the spark that encouraged me to finally move motorcycles up from a curiosity on my list of interests to a passion, learning to ride a few years later at age 61, and continuing to ride now several years into my retirement.

I also owe John a debt of gratitude for igniting my current issue-based passion to protect, promote and restore the scenic character of North Carolina and its communities through teamwork with other like-passioned individuals and groups across the state via Scenic North Carolina.

John has a keen awareness of unique sense of place, one shared by Durham’s official community-destination marketing organization (DMO), but which unfortunately escapes far too many DMO executives in other communities who are entrusted with its defense and promotion.

Similarly our friendship and mutual respect occasionally serves as a bridge between a diverse number of organizations, groups, factions and individuals who may risk becoming far too prematurely estranged into “fur or agin” alignments.

Friendships such as ours are not an uncommon attribute of life in Durham and part of what makes this community both so incredibly activist at heart and so dearly held in the hearts of residents and organizations of every stripe.

I recommend that you mark your calendar now for the first or second Saturday of April 2013, probably the 13th starting at 10 am, usually near Ninth and Green and take this incredible walk through Durham with my friend John.

1 comment:

Reyn said...

For a video peak at Forest Hills click on