To the editor:
I live two blocks from Hudson’s largest and most natural public park, Oakdale Park. Outside of Oakdale’s parking lot, basketball court and skatepark, you won’t find any concrete — just dirt and gravel trails, grass, trees, sand and a picturesque (though man-made) lake. We are all fortunate to have such a place. And while Oakdale Park is a great space for ambling, fishing, swimming, contemplation, nature-watching or just “turning off” for a little while, it is not an ideal place to take a hike. It could and should be. Your first clue that challenges lie ahead is that there is no sign welcoming patrons to Oakdale Park.
Anyone who has attempted to follow the trail around the lake, as I do just about every other day, has come to the 150-foot section near the northeast corner of the lake where the trail is uneven and full of tree roots, turning a simple hike into an annoying and dangerous ordeal. Even my stable 55-year old frame dreads that section of the trail. When the trail is wet or covered in snow, the challenging area is that much worse, almost impassible. It’s just no fun. A friend of mine, older and less stable than me on her feet, hiked the entire trail with me once 2 years ago and refuses to return because of the poorly maintained portion of the trail.
Like a sidewalk full of tripping hazards, a dangerous, unfriendly and unmaintained hiking trail in a public park says “This trail is not important to us and we really don’t care if you fall on your face. Thanks for visiting — good luck.” The “we” in Oakdale’s instance is, of course, the City of Hudson. For some puzzling reason, the Hudson Youth Department is responsible for maintaining the entire park.
It’s possible to stand at or near certain parts of the trail in the back of the park and be truly away from it all, to hear no noise from cars or indeed of any of the machinery of civilization. You are still in downtown Hudson! I take advantage of this regularly, soaking in the true quiet that is so rare these days and getting harder and harder to find throughout the world. I do it because my brain seems to ask for it, and because science tells us that finding quiet outdoors among trees is good for us mentally and physically.
Spending time near trees has been shown to lower blood pressure, among other benefits. You do yourself a favor when you walk anywhere, but especially so off of concrete and into the woods. It saddens me to no end that the City of Hudson doesn’t understand how important a well-maintained, safe and accessible-to-all trail around Oakdale Lake is. For if they did, they would have made an effort long ago to ensure that this exists. It won’t be cheap to level the traill and remove the roots or create an alternate route, but there must be a way to do it and find the money to do it. Either you want to encourage people to get outdoors or you don’t, and it appears that the City of Hudson continues to embrace the latter.
How many tens of thousands of dollars per year do you think that the City of Hudson DPW spends filling potholes, painting crosswalks and stop lines, plowing, sweeping, and repaving our streets? Their total budget this year is, once again, 2 million dollars! And yet in the year 2021 at Oakdale Park there does not exist a fully respectable trail free of blatant tripping hazards.
It is high time for the City of Hudson to understand what is truly important for healthy residents, because when we prioritize concrete and automobiles over access to nature, we all lose.
We only have one downtown park that is truly natural and full of opportunities to keep us all healthy. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to hike the trail around the Oakdale Lake without worrying about breaking one’s ankle (or worse) on a tree root? Is that too much to ask?