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What we need is National Front Yard Week

Submitted by on Saturday, 30 May 2009 No Comment

front_yardWe put in a cameo appearance in our front yard this evening and, as usual, it was pretty lonely. Just the guys, me, a bubble sword and a little girl gazing out her bedroom window.

A few walkers hustled by, heads down. A girl we often see on the way to school in the mornings biked past and smiled. Some teens out on a “get away from the parents” outing strolled by.

Other than that, no one. We’ve had several foreclosures on the street but not that many. I can’t blame the ghostliness on vacancies anyway, not when it’s been like this for 10 years.

Do we need a National Front Yard Week to get people out of their houses and back in the streets? It’s not just a problem here, either. Walking through neighborhoods while on vacation on the other side of the country this spring, we saw the same thing. Big, spacious yards – much larger than the postage stamp that is ours – largely unused.

In our neighborhood, there’s one group of teens a few blocks over who regularly hoop it up in their yards and in the street. Otherwise, there are few signs of life.

I can’t blame it on the lack of front porches in the neighborhood. They tried to fix that issue by applying neotraditional development principals in newer developments flanking us on either side – garages in the back, bike paths, pedestrian-friendly paseos, convenient neighborhood parks.

Those neighborhoods, just like ours, are quiet except for Halloween and the Fourth of July. “No one ever goes outside around here. I don’t get,” a newcomer lamented recently.

I can’t blame it on kids being overscheduled because, the fact is, if not for organized sports and the occasional birthday party, the guys would never play with another kid all weekend long.

For the months lately, we hadn’t even tried. It was Easter when we last put in serious front-yard time. We hunted eggs for hours and didn’t see another soul.

Last spring was different for us. We practically lived in the front yard, passing footballs and baseballs, drawing chalk airports on the sidewalk. The only time we headed out back was when Big Guy wanted to play soccer. We live close to the corner of a busy street, and cars frequently zip around the turn like they’re on the last lap at Talladega.

If there is a reason we’re all cloistered, that one’s the closest to rational: the standard 25 mph speed limit is way too high for a neighborhood. That number seems to be pretty common through out the country these days, though.

We’ll be out front off and on for the next few months, because the guys get bored with the pool and the sprinklers work better out front. But chances are, it will be just the three of us and the intermittent passer-by.

It makes me sad.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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