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New route strengthens affection for Columbia

Sunday, July 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:07 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I’ve been careless, and sharp-eyed readers have caught me. Twice. Now how’s that for an embarrassing way to begin a column?

Two weeks ago, in my piece on the Michael Moore movie “Sicko,” I attributed to a Frenchman the sentiment that in France the government fears the people, but in the U.S. the fear is the other way around. A reader wrote in that the comment was actually made by a woman during a discussion Moore had with a group of Americans resident in France. I don’t remember it that way; but I wasn’t taking notes during the film, so I have to assume that the reader is correct.

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And last week, I wrote about Doug Russell’s “unique distinction” of having led the Board of Curators during both the Ashcroft and Blunt administrations. Wrong. I had read that misstatement in an essay by a writer I respect and failed to double-check. A note from another reader politely questioned my assertion. Belatedly, I looked up the record and learned that, although Mr. Russell is in his second term on the board and did serve as president in the ‘80s, he hasn’t been president this time around.

To err may be human, but it’s bad journalism. I apologize.

On a happier note, here’s a comment that’s almost fact-free: I deviated from my usual walk to the office the other day and discovered yet another reason to like Columbia.

Usually, I amble down Stewart Road and join the few other pedestrians in hustling across the five lanes of Providence. This time, when I got to the intersection, I turned right, down a shady path, and enjoyed a quiet stroll along the mainly beautiful Flat Branch all the way downtown.

You may have seen the billboard as you’ve driven past on Providence, the one informing that the extension of the MKT Trail cost about $220,000, with two-thirds coming from our sales tax and the rest from a federal grant. (I’m nearly certain I’ve got that right.) Seldom has our tax money been better spent.

Take that route and you get to walk — or pedal, if that’s your persuasion — through four tunnels, along the creek and into the not-quite-completed Flat Branch Park. (That’s another $900,000 or so we shouldn’t regret.) You’ll get to meet the swallows that nest under a couple of the streets you’re avoiding, as well as the occasional fellow traveler. You may even spot, as I did, a meditating stranger perched in mid-stream.

In the park, there’s an attractive footbridge that I suppose a real budget hawk might call a bridge to nowhere, because it leads only into the parking lot of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. It’s a pretty little bridge, though, and not that expensive, I’m sure.

Once you’ve walked under Locust Street, you’re in the completed part of the park, an oasis that has the added virtue of being convenient to the brewpub.

I realize that this isn’t everybody’s route to work, but it’s a wonderful walk and one of the new delights of our town. I can’t imagine I’ll have to correct that statement.


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