The first column I ever wrote for this newspaper was about the vacant lot that sits next to my parents’ home.

Those who read it might recall how I talked fondly about the grassy space serving as football field, baseball diamond and soccer pitch from the time I was 5 years old all the way through high school, and how I hoped it would always serve a similar purpose for future generations.

Well, apparently it is not to be.

From the time my family moved here in 1982, there had always been rumors about someone developing the lot, and the sizable amount of land behind my boyhood home that used to serve as a strip mine.

The miles of wooded area were also a source of endless entertainment and wonder in those younger days.

Occasionally some spray-paint would go down on the grass, and some wooden stakes with fluorescent flags on them would go up, as someone would plan some sort of development, but nothing ever happened.

However, this time, whoever owns the property apparently means business.

Not only are there surveyor’s markings all over the vacant lot, but scores of trees that stand on the border of the forest area that used to be the strip mine have been cut down.

I don’t know who the developer is. I don’t really know much about their plan, except that they are going to clear away the beautiful woodland to put up a bunch of houses, despite the stagnant state of the local real estate game.

So, it would appear, progress has finally come, at the expense of my childhood wonderland.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t hope a few nails went blunt, or a few boards rotted here and there throughout this whole process.

I’ve got nothing against the people putting the thing together. Like I said, I don’t even know who they are, and I’m sure when they look at an aerial map of their property all they see is a bunch of land going to waste. Land that could be making money.

Well, best of luck with all of that. I suppose there’s no point in keeping it like it is just because a bunch of people used to run around back there when they were kids.

And, really, there’s not much point in preserving it so future generations can make their memories playing on the lot, or scraping their knees while rolling down a hill in the woods. Let’s face it, kids aren’t likely to scrape anything unless it happens to their character in a video game.

“Go outside and just walk? What would be the point of that? Use my what? Imagination? Sorry, never heard of it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to upload some funny quotes onto this MySpace page, so my real friends, who I’ve never met, can read them.”

The last time I took a stroll through those woods, all the trails we had cut as kids were almost completely overgrown, so nobody had been through there regularly for a while. And that was a few years ago.

Apparently, the only people who go back there now are these yahoos on their ATVs, looking to get themselves killed.

So, all things considered, perhaps change is a good thing.

But I just can’t go along with it.

I’m tired of seeing all of the landmarks from my past destroyed.

I thought it might be cool one day to toss a football with my kid on the same field where I learned to throw a tight spiral, or take him (or her) for a walk to the top of the tall hills back in the woods where you can see for miles, or climb around on the boulders that are strewn about in a wide clearing.

All right, so that’s sappy, I know. And I hate sappy. There’s just no way around it in this case.

I guess that, as long as the field and the woods were there, a feeling existed that you could, in fact, travel back in time, just in case you needed to. Just in case you needed to feel that old sense of wonder, or adventure or, maybe, contentment.

Progress always costs someone something. To go forward, you have to leave something behind, it seems.

It’s just too bad it had to be this.

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