The old phrase “careful what you wish for” visited the paper last week.
After Port St. Joe commissioners heard proposals about perspective businesses last week, I decided why not use one to start a bit of a conversation?
The proposal about building a miniature golf course in the city seemed a fine item, so with a slug “Miniature golf? Sign us up” I sought to spark a dialogue.
My father, an editor and editorial page editor at a metropolitan daily newspaper for decades, once pronounced at the dinner table that an important role for newspapers was to lead community conversations,
Now, in this age, too many newspapers, too many media outlets, period, have lost all sight of that concept, but I suppose it’s in the DNA so I make my weak attempts.
And, I figured, miniature golf would surely not be too controversial.
Why not stir some feedback, if not stir the pot, I admit, and in turn maybe commissioners might be able to gauge, somewhat, the public pulse.
Something was certainly stirred.
The story, and more particularly the Facebook post, generated the most comments, in the shortest period of time, as any story for the paper in recent memory.
The debate was lengthy, seemed divided along easily-recognized fissures of viewpoint, and was, in some instances, unfortunately, steered into the personal.
On that last point, the veering into personal, I only say that in my mind that is the fundamental problem in the nation right now, we have lost the ability to agree to disagree.
More to the point, we’ve stopped listening to each other.
Too often, and I refer here to national more than local, it is all black-and-white, for-us or agin-us, no retreat and no holds barred from either side.
I won’t get all preachy, but problems, issues, whatever adjective you wish to apply, are rarely simple or rarely solved, by nations, states, counties, if folks aren’t willing to listen while they talk.
To give and take and enter with open mind; we’ve lost that and must retrieve it to truly move forward, to progress, to evolve.
And this subject was miniature golf, not health care or nuclear proliferation; miniature golf.
I will now step away from the soapbox.
As for the discussion on the miniature golf, the fissures seemed starkest between those who are have children and do not have children and between those for whom Gulf County is a late or second home and those who have been here most of their lives.
And as it happens, as I read through the many comments, nearly 100 when counting comments and replies to comments and replies to replies, I found I connected with both sides.
Yes, as many noted, Gulf County has some of the most special natural resources one could find, a natural playground that should attract any young mind far more than a miniature golf course.
Yes, when I was a child the outdoors were home during the summer, during the non-school hours.
My parents had six children within 10 years of each other; after breakfast during the summer they didn’t want us in the house, that was their respite.
Want to be at home?
Grab a book and read, my mother would say, and that pretty much chased us away.
So, I understand the point.
But it defies modern reality.
Kids today are not built that way and, besides, if you’ve grown up around the abundant natural resources found here at some point a youngster surely becomes somewhat immune to the allure.
I once worked a summer for Campbell’s, where they made tomato soup and V8: will never touch V8 or Chunky Soup again and I used to love both.
Further, as the grandparent to two children growing up in Gulf County, I can attest to the dearth of activities, constructive activities, available to children.
For working parents, busy parents, finding activities outside the home that are safe and entertaining for children growing up with technology and its devices at their fingertips is a genuine challenge.
The conversation, the debate over the proposal, in fact, more than anything, underscored the need for local officials to take the lead in promoting the creation of activities for children beyond the two dozen or so parks in the county.
But there were two fundamental arguments worth extrapolating from the social media discussion about a miniature golf course.
One, the vision should not be based on the memory of Putt-Putt, with its orange-and-green splashed cement courses that could have been a gas station if the 18 holes weren’t laid out.
Miniature golf has evolved and the potential for a course to be crafted that fits within the community’s aethetics seems not only possible, but what should be demanded.
In turn, such a course could provide an outlet for children, an outlet that is badly needed in this county.
Could also provide another recreational option for visiting families.
So, boiled down, both sides of the debate have solid points.
They have also provided a blueprint for any debate commissioners may have on the proposal going forward.
And, that, I am happy to attest, is exactly what a community conversation is supposed to look like, minus the forays into the personal.
So, in closing, thanks to our readers.