Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 28, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Strengthening neighborhoods the hope for ‘Walk’

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — We’ve all said it time and time again. Our neighborhoods just aren’t what they were back in the good old days.

Your neighborhood used to define you. Everybody knew everybody, neighbors were your friends and neighbors always helped neighbors. Always.

Today, we are more of a closed-door society — straight from the driveway to the front door and be sure to flip the lock once you’re inside. Fear has taken the place of friendship, even in good old friendly Ashland.

Nothing is quite like it used to be, but could we take back our neighborhoods from the fear and unfriendlessness that has become the norm?

How many neighbors do you know on a first-name basis on your block? We give a friendly wave to neighbors and sometimes speak for more than a few minutes, but honestly, it’s not enough to get to know them.

Back in my day (ever heard that before?), not only did they know you, but they knew your mother and father, too. So you had better not get into meaness because somebody was watching.

Our neighborhoods used to be a safe haven, too. We played pickup basketball and sandlot baseball and football on neighborhood lots. We might even break into a two-on-two game of Whiffle ball if just a few were around.

But that’s not what neighborhoods are like today. I see about as many deer on the streets as children playing. We are all inside behind those closed — and locked — doors.

Air conditioning may be at least partially to blame because, after all, if you leave the door open you’re “cooling off the entire outdoors.”

Taking back our neighborhoods and putting them back in a place of pride is Ashland Mayor Chuck Charles’ plan for his “Walk with the Mayor” initiative that begins April 20.

Mayor Charles is an avid walker, along with his dog Remington. He plans to take morning walks with residents through 15 of Ashland’s neighborhoods.

It’s his hope it will bring out neighbors to meet neighbors and that, collectively, these new “friends” can take charge of their neighborhoods with cleanup campaigns, neighborhood watches and simply friends who can help in a crisis.

If something bad was happening in your neighborhood — and nobody seems to be immune to troubles if a glance through the police blotter is any indication — is there a neighbor you’d feel comfortable calling? Do you even have a phone number for that person? Don’t try looking in the phone book because so many these days don’t have landlines. If you’re not “friends” on Facebook, you may be out of luck.

But, hopefully, when the mayor comes to your neighborhood, you’ll not only get the chance to meet him and ask anything you want (sorry, Chuck), but you may say hello, possibly for the first time, to that guy who lives across the street.

Some neighborhoods remain friendly and active. Our block on Holt Street has a summer block party.

If we can take back our neighborhoods a couple of blocks at a time, maybe it will eventually revert back to that place we used to know and love.

Charles’ “Walk with the Mayor” program may be the spark that ignites us.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.