Much like an amateur highwire act, Frankfort has continually struggled to balance historic preservation with modern-day quality of life. The debate over whether to allow bicycles in Leslie Morris Park is a perfect example of how many in the community see things as all or nothing — recreation vs. preservation — at the expense of progress.
In one corner are history buffs and elected city officials outraged that mountain bikes in the park will disturb hallowed Civil War grounds. In the other corner are outdoor enthusiasts, including local Boy Scouts who spent months clearing the trails.
To both groups of folks, we say, “Don’t define your world in black and white because there is so much hiding amongst the grays.”
It doesn’t have to be a choice between preservation and recreation when both can be achieved simultaneously if each side would be willing to budge a little. This isn’t a new issue and is being done at parks across the country — proof that the two can not just coexist in harmony but help each other's cause.
For example, a young bicyclist on Fort Hill might learn some history he'd otherwise never learn. Increased use of the park will bring heightened community support for its preservation as a historically significant place.
We believe it is an unproductive use of the city commission’s time and energy to micromanage Leslie Morris Park, which falls under the domain of the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites department. In fact, it wouldn’t take much effort for the department to make the park, which was overgrown and virtually forgotten until the dust-up over bike trails, more inviting by adding signage and plaques that explain and expose visitors to the history of the site.
By disallowing bicycles at Leslie Morris Park elected officials are sending a message of “stay away” when they should be saying “come explore the history of Fort Hill.” If we keep turning guests away, it won’t take long for Frankfort to get a reputation for being inhospitable and for folks to begin looking elsewhere for a place to live, work and play.