Twenty years ago, I spent half of my summers here. Running around the trees, games of tag and hide-and-go-seek, ghost stories in the dark. Paths worn into the soil from all the kids that would be around. New friends were met here, old friends became temporary enemies for a few days, and all the other ways that children interacted, all here, where we all were. It was as if nature made us a playground.
Fifteen years ago, this was the place to sneak off to. As hormones began to awaken, a little venturing into the darker areas. Doing things we weren't quite ready to do, yet pushed on by our bodies. Kisses stolen, friendly teasing after seeing two others together, and our own little experimentation, all done in familiar territory.
Ten years ago, the other side of the hill was a construction site, a big store going up. Trash was littered around, and there was a slight eerieness to the nights. Some said there were kids doing drugs in the woods, though we didn't know, we didn't spent time here in the dark. The old ghost stories were now stories about psychotic men hiding in the woods, waiting for kids. Everyone suspected it wasn't true, but nobody wanted to test it out.
Five years ago, the trees were marked with paint. The city had finalized the plans to put a road through the area. People wanted a connecting road to the commercial complex on the other side of the hill, and there had been gang troubles in these woods. The body of a runaway teenage girl had been found, at the base of the tree I had once sat in for an hour, just talking with friends. There hadn't been children playing here in years.
Today, it's an empty field next to a busy street. There's a sign telling us another fast food chain is coming soon, and in big letters it promotes the mini-playground the restaurant is going to have. Once again, little children will come here to play, though not in the clean air, the sunlight, the carefree moods. It'll all be corporate-sponsored and highly sanitized, after the parents have spent their money.
Progress, they say.
I say this is a place to be wary of.