It?s time to praise Marion?s assets

I write in praise of Marion. Yes, the county seat. The town between two lakes. Rhino central. Why? Because the city to Hillsboro?s east has a lot going for it. I believe it?s time we recognize that fact and put any lingering differences aside.

First and foremost, Marion has a river running through it. I have always wanted to live in a river town. I grew up in Goessel, and, yes, we had Mosquito Creek, but that was hardly a river.

The Cottonwood slices the Stone City in half, and although there were years before the building of Marion Dam that the lazy river became a raging torrent and flooded businesses and homes, having more than just a creek gives a town a certain character. It tends to bring out the Huck Finn in all of us.

Towns that have sizable rivers also usually have quality parks, and Marion?s Central Park is no exception. Big shade trees and a nature trail provide a sense of coolness in the summer and can become a winter wonderland when it snows. The park also has a nifty little water feature around a spring located on the east side, or at least it did last time I visited.

Hillsboro has long shown a need for walking and biking paths around town. Marion has done something about it, setting up places to take a hike on its perimeter.

A joint venture between the school district and the city has resulted in a quality athletic facility, complete with a walking track around a new gym and an indoor swimming pool. Though perhaps a bit loud in both color scheme and decibel levels during games, the gym offers comfortable seating and predominantly unobstructed views of the contest. And the scoreboards have some really cool features.

The school and city are to be commended for coming together for the community to create the complex.

Marion has quality people running its schools. Superinten?dent Lee Leiker and his family are top-notch. Tod Gordon has done a good job there as activities director as well. Some of the teachers are old friends.

Naturally, towns as close together in miles as well as size as Hillsboro and Marion are going to be rivals on the athletic fields and floors, but both schools surely have other teams they would love to defeat as passionately as the Warriors and Trojans like to upend each other.

A recent workshop featuring student leaders from both high schools highlighted the ability of districts to come together in an effort to solve common problems. By most student accounts, it was a success.

When contrasting the two towns, some smaller differences are apparent:

Hillsboro has virtually no hills, Marion has some significant elevation changes and lots of rocks.

Marion has the county seat; Hillsboro has the county fair.

Hillsboro has eight tennis courts for high school use; Marion High does not have a tennis program.

Marion?s bowling alley has automatic scoring machines; Hillsboro?s bowling alley gives participants an opportunity to learn how to keep score by hand.

There are also a number of similarities.

Hillsboro has La Cabana; Marion has La Hacienda. Marion has the Big Scoop; Hillsboro has Wendy?s. Both have Pizza Huts. Hillsboro has Subway and Sonic; Marion claims Gambino?s and several other restaurants and cafes downtown.

Hillsboro has Alco; Marion has Duckwall?s. Marion has Art in the Park; Hillsboro has its fall arts and crafts fair downtown.

Hillsboro has Clint Seibel; Marion has Margo Yates.

Marion has its resident turkey vultures that occasionally sit on its water tower; Hillsboro has its Canada Geese, who are always hanging around the Carriage Hills ponds. Both communities can claim the bald eagles that winter at the reservoir.

So, bottom line, those of us in Hillsboro should appreciate what our neighbors to the east have to offer. Granted, we don?t always agree on everything, and maybe there are some slight cultural and historical differences.

Rumor has it, after next year, our two school districts will be in different leagues. With that rivalry put to rest, perhaps we can learn to appreciate each other even more.