Sunny day, perfect scene show importance of recreation assets

The sun was shining late Wednesday afternoon and temperatures were more summer-like than spring.
It was a perfect day to be outdoors and it seemed like a healthy chunk of the community decided to congregate on the area from Whiteside Park over to Veterans Memorial Field.
Had someone been looking down from a helicopter or a low-flying plane, it would have made for a wonderful picture - and served as a heck of a marketing tool for Ely.
Here’s what the camera operator would have seen:
• Whiteside Park filled with young families, including a couple dozen or more kids enjoying the playground equipment and roaming free on the grass, while a few adults relaxed on the benches;
• Ely’s LIttle League field occupied by one of the community’s 10 or so Little League teams, with coaches and players tuning up for a season that will make the area a hub of activity for the next two months;
• Several dozen people gathered around the high school softball field, cheering along with the players from both Ely and Littlefork-Big Falls as the teams traded momentum in a game that was decided in extra innings;
• Fans from both Ely and Virginia gathered at Veterans Memorial Field, where the schools’ junior high baseball teams were hooked up in a doubleheader in two of 13 games that would be played at the historic ballpark this week alone.
Take a ride around the Iron Range and there are few places where that scene can be replicated, at least not with the sheer mass and abundance of activity in one central location.
Whiteside Park and the adjacent ballfield area are community assets. They are used by a cross-section of the community, across generational and demographic lines.
Their benefits extend even farther, to those who never set foot in the park or take in a ballgame.
Quality of life is an intangible that makes Ely an attractive place. Study after study has shown how young people benefit from athletics and activities, from better grades in school to living healthier lifestyles.
Businesses in town benefit when people are drawn to our assets, whether those who are attracted to Ely because of its recreational offerings or those whose cash registers ring when, like this weekend, hundreds of players and fans come to town for a baseball tournament. This year alone, over 60 baseball teams will visit Ely.
Winters are long and the economy remains a challenge in Ely, there can be no doubt.
But the smell of burgers on the grill, the sounds of kids cheering and playing and the ting of the aluminum bat, and the sight of toddlers to elders enjoying a summerlike spring day made for a wonderful picture Wednesday in Ely.
We should do all we can to ensure there are many more days like that in the future.