The Crimson White

Tuscaloosa still moving steadily toward improvement

SoRelle Wyckoff

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The walls around The University of Alabama are imaginary, but at times, they block the view of the Tuscaloosa community. Sometimes, we simply forget that there is more to this town than the University.

It’s selfish, and I even fall prey to the thought despite living in Tuscaloosa for five years of elementary and middle school. But in truth, the University is only a portion of what makes up this town. It’s both refreshing and respectful to let down the drawbridge and be a citizen rather than a student in Tuscaloosa.

The crisp weather has pulled me outside the past few weekends, and I have been continually thankful of the effort to rebuild and refine public outdoor spaces in Tuscaloosa. There are two parks within walking distance from me and more dotted all over Tuscaloosa.

The sidewalks to get to those parks are losing their cracks to new, clean slabs of concrete. Both the sight and safety of these new walkways are useful and appreciated.

My favorite park is the Tuscaloosa River Walk along the Black Warrior River. It has been expanded all the way to the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater, and there is freshly paved sidewalk and a new playscape. I constantly see runners, dog walkers, young children and families using this beautiful area to spend time outdoors and with each other.

And the Amphitheater has proved to be the addition to the town that it promised. There have been musical guests of solid proportions, drawing crowds from not only the Tuscaloosa community, but the surrounding area as well.

My mother always said Tuscaloosa reminded her of Austin, Texas, when she lived there in the 1970s; and not to brag, but I’m from there as well, and that’s one heck of a compliment. I’m obviously biased about my hometown, but in truth, there are fair comparisons to be made, and positive. Much of Austin’s economy was and is connected to the University, like Tuscaloosa’s; parks and recreational areas are priorities in city planning; local businesses are many and well supported.

And despite the large size and population of Austin, there is a focus on community. We are proud Austonians, dedicated to “keeping it weird.” That focus on community is without a doubt present in Tuscaloosa, especially as of late.

When making comparisons between Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa’s rebuilding efforts last year I was skeptical of the future of Tuscaloosa. And while some concerns remain, I have been pleasantly incorrect.

The return to normalcy may have been slow, but now that a foundation has been created, Tuscaloosa has been moving steadily toward improvement after improvement. Mayor Walt Maddox seems to be aware and detailed in his leadership, with decisions that are fair and easy to get behind.

This past weekend I was able to see just how much our town has moved forward, in both tangible and emotional ways. The inaugural Tuscaloosa Half Marathon snaked through Rosedale, Forest Lake and Alberta, symbolically ending at the Amphitheater. Mayor Maddox even ran the race himself.

Along the route, families stood on their lawns to cheer on runners, and organizations held up signs and waved pom-poms. They yelled “Roll Tide” and acted as personal cheerleaders. Every neighborhood and corner was represented. This motivated me to the last mile.

Seeing these people, of all ages and colors and sex, up early Saturday morning in the cold to cheer on runners they didn’t even know was the most beautiful recovery I’ve seen yet.

SoRelle Wyckoff is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column runs weekly on Mondays.

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Tuscaloosa still moving steadily toward improvement