A great name for a great place, this public space shows us – in my opinion – what’s best about Leesburg, Loudoun County and our country. Freedom Park – just off the Dulles Greenway on the South side of Town – represents – to me – much more than just its 20 acres of land, with a series of athletic fields and support facilities. And this goes back to its very beginning. I remember getting a lump in my throat as Council Members – well over a decade ago now – came up with the idea for this site as the location for the Town’s 911 Memorial – and what better title for the spot than Freedom Park?
I think it’s pretty cool – in an even bigger picture – that we have generations of kids growing up in our locality, and enjoying healthy, athletic activities at a place they can tell their grandchildren about – “Yes, I can remember when I was little, we played baseball, softball and soccer at Freedom Park in Leesburg, Virginia: Now let me tell you a little more about what that name means …” Yeah, all these years after the initial name choice, the goosebumps are still there.
Ironically, the morning I last visited this local facility, the gate was still closed, and I had to make a quick pilgrimage to the 911 Memorial, get a brief overview of the buildings onsite, and then hightail it back to my car at the side of the road. By the way, for those who’ve never been, you’ll find the access on Tolbert Lane off Evergreen Mills Road; the site’s a bit landlocked by its eastern border with the greenway, and Battlefield Parkway to the South.
Now, when you’re touring the facility on foot, you can’t help but notice the name ‘Henry Stowers’ on the impressive field house – done up in a traditional barn style; I’d like to think that Mr Stowers still looks after the land in these parts, just as he did as a farmer – for many years – up until a fatal vehicle accident took his life in December of 2001 (another motorist ran a stop sign and both died in the crash).
Henry Stowers also served on the Loudoun Board of Supervisors back in the 1970’s, as well as a number of agricultural panels – and lent a big hand to local 4-H youth activities. To say he was well-liked by his peers would be understatement. In fact, I could do far worse than nominate his spirit as eternal steward of Freedom Park and those who visit the place, as I trust that those who knew him far better than I would tell you that part of the man is indeed, still here.
This sentiment enlarges and comes full circle in the tasteful Memorial – at Freedom Park – to those who lost their lives in the tragedies of September 11, 2001; we – hopefully – not only remember them and grieve their loss, but also – just possibly – communicate for a brief moment with their essence – the best of what they were – in the deepest of possible empathies. Is this not – after all – at least one sense of eternal life? Truly, their spirit carries on, and I say, kudos for the initiative to place the Marker in the local parcel of land we call Freedom Park. As I stated at the top of this story, a great name for a great place – and – to a great degree – it demonstrates our higher nature, to ourselves as well as to others.
Now, when I was a kid, I played all the usual sports and had a lot of fun, but never grew up to rival Babe Ruth, Jim Brown or LaBron James; likewise, with the majority of our youngsters of today, who learn the lessons of teamwork, fairness – and good, old-fashioned participation in what we call recreation – in play. To paraphrase the cliché, I don’t recall too many victories or losses on my local sandlots or gridirons, but I vividly remember taking part with my neighbors, friends and family, and enjoying boatloads of fun for my efforts. And, yes, I took my share of bloody noses, ‘shiners’ and bruises – and probably even had my ‘bell’ rung a few too many times – but how we enjoyed the sense of freedom to play – (with the avoidance of injury), may it always be so.