Beginning at 10 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, the streets of Punta Gorda’s historic downtown and its waterfront Harborwalk will be the route for Hot August Nights 8K, a race that finishes uphill on the rooftop of the city’s downtown parking garage. The reward is a post-race cool-down gathering and awards presentation that promises to be something to remember (beer, of course, will be part of it). This first-time event is the brainchild of The Foot Landing, a locally owned store that offers shoes, clothing and gear for all levels of runners and triathletes. The store’s owners, being from Key West, thought they’d spice oi things up a bit by creating the kind of event that should do just that. Finishing on the roof of the parking garage may sound strange, but the store is located on the first floor retail level, so it’s actually a logical place. Having to run uphill to the finish line is also unusual — especially in our part of Florida — but that’s just another reason to be part of it.
Just a week after that event comes the annual Dr Ella Piper Legacy 5K Run/Walk being staged from Dunbar Middle School in Fort Myers on Saturday, Aug. 31. One month later, on Saturday, Sept. 28, the Cops & Joggers 5K moves to the evening this year in the Fort Myers River District.
“Don’t fence me out.” That’s the catch phrase of a public service ad campaign I remember seeing on TV in the early 1970s when I lived in the Northeast. It reminded those who managed properties with basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, running tracks and playgrounds to allow them to be used rather than locked up. Unfortunately, today our schools are the most glaring example of fencing the public out from these resources, allowing them to sit idle. Of course, kids will always find other, often unhealthy and unproductive, things to do when school’s out.
Now that our schools resemble medium-security correctional facilities, we’ve become accustomed to being fenced out and accept it as the price we must pay to be safe. But keeping those who have no legitimate business off school grounds while classes are in session is much different than wasting valuable athletic and recreational amenities during non-school hours and on weekends. Considering these are truly public resources paid for by you and me, we should have reasonable access. Sure, the good news is that vandalism is down when things are locked up. The bad news is that by denying access, kids and others often find something else to do that costs society a lot more than preventing vandalism would and, ironically, sometimes means someone is locked up as a result. That’s on top of the lost health benefits and the costs associated with inactivity.
To its credit, Lee County Parks & Recreation has built parks adjacent to some public schools, so there is at least some attempt to get the biggest bang for the public buck. But if you really look at the wasted potential that is locked behind our schools’ gates, we’re doing ourselves a major disservice in the name of security. There has to be a way to make this work. Any ideas? Go to Lee County Town Hall (www.leecountytownhall.com) with your suggestions. And don’t forget to visit BikeWalkLee’s blog (bikewalklee. blogspot.com) to stay abreast of this and other community matters.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and trails.
— Dan Moser is a league cycling and CyclingSavvy instructor/ trainer and programs director for the Florida Bicy cle Association who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 334- 6417.