Writing about hobbies is self-indulgent in the best of times and even more so now, in the shadow of Haiti's suffering, when even our most serious tasks can seem pointless if they do nothing to help.
My only defense, a weak one, is that we all have our jobs to do, and mine is reporting on Hernando County, where most of us have food and water and our loved ones. And, this still passes for news:
Flatlanders Challenge, the running race that seemed doomed a year ago after being canceled for the first time in 30 years, is back for 2010, with both a 5K and 10K scheduled for April 3 in Brooksville. Also, the often-delayed extension of the Good Neighbor Trail is, to borrow one of County Administrator David Hamilton's favorite phrases, no longer on the "infinity plan.'' The city of Brooksville and the county say federal stimulus money should pay for the trail's next 2 miles.
To my co-workers who give me grief about the amount of ink I devote to various forms of human self-propulsion, these updates aren't just about my pastimes. Races and trails draw people — generally well-to-do and orderly people — who will eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and take away memories of Brooksville as a place they wouldn't mind seeing again.
Not world-saving stuff, but good for businesses, good for our town.
Jay Pingley, whose father Norm helped stage the first race in December 1978, offered to save Flatlanders last year by staging it through his company, Florida Race Services. The running club that has always sponsored it resisted, partly because — on the off chance the race made money — Pingley planned to keep it.
So what? Given the dismal attendance in recent years, this race is no gold mine. And if it turns out to be one someday — well, wonderful. The era when road races were always communal fundraising events is long past. If Pingley can make a few bucks saving a great local tradition — and that's what he says he plans to do, starting with this year's race — he will have earned every penny.
One of the best chances ever to extend the Good Neighbor Trail seemed sure to fall on the vast scrap heap of previous failed opportunities last year. A request for $684,000 in federal stimulus money to pave the trail out to Weatherly Road, east of Brooksville, was considered a no-go because the city had failed to survey the path through the Majestic Oaks subdivision.
It has that survey now, said county transportation planning coordinator Dennis Dix, and state highway officials have sent the request "up the food chain.'' Federal money is available; the trail plan meets all the requirements to receive it, and the county has already met with other interested parties, such as the Division of Forestry, so it can be ready to extend the path all the way to the Withlacoochee State Trail if more money becomes available.
That's good news. If, with Haiti in the background, you can't consider it great, then I have something else to report.
A local group called Partners for Paul is holding a fundraiser at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 11, probably at Brooksville Regional Hospital. Proceeds will go to Partners in Health, co-founded by former Brooksville resident Dr. Paul Farmer, a central figure in providing emergency medical care in Haiti.
Go. Give. And do something really important.