It was a phone conversation during a walk along the short span of shaded path that connects the Columbus Riverwalk and the Columbus Soccer Complex. The man on the other end of the line, a former Columbus resident who has been long gone, listened to the description of the scene as his friend walked along the path.
He could not believe what he was hearing.
The Riverwalk/Soccer complex, for all that it means to Columbus and what it will continue to mean, is easy enough for us to take for granted. While familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it often breeds ambivalence.
Yet first-time visitors and those who remember what this part of the city was like before these two projects marvel at its beauty and the vision that gave it birth.
When the Riverwalk (completed in 2009) was connected to the soccer complex (which opened in 2015) by a 900-foot path in 2015, they became one complementary complex and easily the biggest addition to the city’s landscape in decades.
Together, they provide residents and visitors alike with a host of experiences that simply weren’t available before. There are nice touches along the way — a butterfly garden maintain by Columbus Master Gardeners, benches that provide a panoramic view of the Tombigbee, pavilions for picnics or escape from the sun, all on a beautifully maintained 10-foot-wide concrete path that winds 2.1 miles around the river. The soccer complex is hailed as one of the finest such facilities in the state.
Anyone who wants to show off the city is likely to head first to the Riverwalk/Soccer Complex.
It is important to remember that this is a project built on cooperation between the city and the county. Both were essential partners.
These days, as the rift between city and county leaders widens, it is worth remembering what happens when a spirit of collaboration exists — and what does not happen when the two retreat to their own corners and stare suspiciously at the other. No one benefits from that.
When county and city officials are tempted to go their own separate ways, they should pause and take a walk along the Riverwalk to the Soccer Complex and recognize what is really at stake.
It provides an important lesson, one that should not be taken for granted.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.