Lancaster City Culture - on Foot

Got a new pair of shoes last weekend. Nothing fancy – plain black, low heels, suitable with casual or business attire. Most importantly: good for walking. I’ve set two goals for the summer: to get in shape and to cut my car use. A sort of combined 50th birthday present to myself and a little gift to the environment too.

I started this week by walking either to or from (sometimes both) every meeting I had here in the city (including the 3 mornings I spent at Lancaster County Prison – more on that in a future post!) By my calculations, I logged about 13 miles (many of them in the rain) across much of the city’s seven square mile area: from Buchanan Park to Reservoir Park, from Lancaster County Prison to the Water Street Mission to Liberty Place, from South Prince to North Queen, from F&M to Brightside Opportunity Center (like I said, a LOT of walking!)

And I rediscovered what I’ve always loved about walking: it allows you to see, really SEE things. Like:

  • The turret on a sweet single family house that sits among long stretches of duplexes on S West End Ave

Walking lets you really see people too: business-suited people hurrying in and out of office buildings, people sitting in their cars, looking stressed, in the traffic backup on Prince St, people getting on and off the city buses, people hanging out in Penn Square, people opening up their shops for another day of business, people sitting on the benches in St James’ cemetery.

People I never would have noticed if I’d been driving: like the lanky, long-haired man wearing a cowboy hat, tapping his white cane as he made his way up the sidewalk on East King, the pregnant girl standing on the front stoop of a run-down building holding the hand of a toddler whose stringy blond hair looked exactly like the girl’s, and the two young boys, one white, one Latino, who clearly should have been in school instead of approaching people along Orange Street asking for money. (Yes, they asked me too, and no, I didn’t give them any. I second-guessed that decision the whole way home.)

Walking through so many parts of the city, I couldn’t help but notice the contrasts:

From the marquee at the Fulton Theatre to the marquee on the front of the King Theater Apartments, an HDC facility to provide affordable housing for people with low incomes

From the shoppers at Central Market to the shoppers at the C-Town Supermarket a block from the prison.

From the suit-wearing, briefcase-carrying people hurrying into the courthouse to the not-so-well-dressed people standing outside, who seem to be in no hurry to go in.

Despite the blister on my heel and the ache in my hips from all that walking, I’m grateful: grateful that I am able-bodied enough to walk. Grateful to have decent shoes (or any shoes at all). Grateful that I have a car – and a choice about whether to drive it or walk. Grateful that my reason for walking ISN’T that I can’t afford gas. Grateful that I can see both the beauty and the pain that exists here. Both are part of the culture of this city we now call “home.” And I intend to keep on walking. (PS – check back later – I’ll post some photos. But for now, gotta get to a day-long mediator training for LAVORP. And yes, I’ll be walking there and back.)

POSTSCRIPT: Here are photos of some of the things walking allowed me to SEE


Where have you walked lately? What did you see?

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa sustainability

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