Last weekend for the first time in over a year I took part in a volunteer day at Radnor Lake.
Radnor Lake is an artificial lake created in 1914 to provide water for the railroads. The surrounding woods were preserved and used as a recreational area by the railroad owners and their families. In 1973, facing the prospect of being developed for condominiums, a group of citizens worked with the state to purchase the land and preserve it. The area now gets over a million visitors a year.
There are still remnants of a pipe that ran downhill over seven miles from the lake itself to Union Station in downtown Nashville. A small part of that pipe is now on display alongside the Historic Valve House Trail. I helped move that piece and helped build the trail. I’ve also worked on other trails and other projects, including the new aviary. The part I’ve played is extremely small, but it’s still a part. With a lot of others I’ve helped make Radnor Lake a better place.
What makes Radnor Lake unique is that it’s a completely protected wilderness area in the middle of a major urban city. This makes it easy to get to, but it’s large enough that there are places within it where the forest seems infinite. It’s a place where a complete stranger might come up alongside you on the trail to point out a great blue heron standing just a few feet away, and where deer have become so accustomed to people they’ll come right up to you. I can go there when I want to be completely alone, and I can really enjoy taking friends there, or meeting strangers. It makes me happy to see other people enjoying Radnor Lake, which, I think, is why the volunteer days mean so much to me.
A little over a year ago I didn’t know when I’d be able to go back to another volunteer day. At times I wondered if I’d ever be able to go back. And then this weekend I was there spreading mulch on a trail. People walked by and paused to say, “Thank you.” I thanked them.
Are you lucky enough to have a place like that?