This is my first holiday season living across from Washington Park, and I love it. It’s all because of Lights in the Park. The cheerfulness of walking my dog amidst a park-wide light display is unparalleled in its winter festivity.
However: ughhh Albany, why do you have to be so anti-pedestrian? There are three days this season set aside for “walkers”–Tuesday, November 26; Wednesday, November 27; and Saturday, January 4. I don’t know about you, but in my family, we consider the Christmas season to start AFTER Thanksgiving and end by, at latest, January 2. So if you want to walk around looking at out-of-season light displays, Washington Park might be for you! And, of course, all of these are charity walks; there are no charity drives. I’m all for charity, but asking only the pedestrians to contribute to charity reminds me of how many restaurants assume that all vegetarians want a side salad instead of fries.
Of course, there’s the organizers of Lights in the Park have made another walking alternative available. From 4:30 to 5:30 (or so) each day, you can walk through the park for a fee. This, of course, is absolutely useless to almost everyone who has a regular 9-5 jobs.
This wouldn’t drive me so crazy if Washington Park wasn’t such a fantastic park for pedestrians. Syracuse has a similar “Lights on the Lake” display that would be truly miserable to walk around, because it’s on a regular road, doesn’t loop around, and is definitely not in an urban center. And, of course, I get it: they’re making a lot of money from cars, and there are lots of people who would be afraid/too cold/physically unable to walk around Washington Park in the winter.
But there are also plenty of people (ahem) who think that walking through the park seems about twenty times cooler (and environmentally friendly) than driving through it. Indeed, some of us walk through the park after work even when there aren’t lights in it–insulting enough that for one month of the year we’d have to pay for the privilege of doing so, but even worse that we’re flat-out not allowed to. Lights in the Park organizers: give us a night or two in the actual holiday season next year, or keep the lights on an extra hour at night one night a week. Have a night where people are encouraged to bring their dogs, or one for families. Encourage people to be a little more active and remind people that cities (and parks) belong to citizens, not cars or criminals. And maybe get my $5 in the process.