Sometimes, the solution we are looking for is right in our own back yard.
That was the case when a discussion began between myself and Dotty Martin, the editor of our community paper The Dallas Post, Vice President of Advertising Denise Sellers and advertising associate Diane McGee. We wanted a way to honor the good people and achievers of the Back Mountain.
Our sister paper – The Sunday Dispatch – has a very popular Person of the Year event celebrating the good people of the greater Pittston area. We wanted to acknowledge people who foster community spirit in the Back Mountain area. We wondered what we could name our Back Mountain award?
The answer was as close and comfortable as a quiet tree-lined street in old Dallas: We’d name the award for the late state Sen. Charles Lemmond, a Back Mountain resident who lived the example of community spirit in his actions and wonderfully pleasant demeanor.
Charlie Lemmond died in 2012 but with the blessing of his wife Barbara and daughter Judy we announced that we would be accepting nominations from the readers of the Dallas Post. And when it came time to pick a winner from the nominations, we found a couple whose contribution to the Back Mountain literally cuts through the community back yard.
Judy Rimple and her husband David have been champions of the creation, expansion and care of the Back Mountain Trail, a project more than 20 years in the making.
Way back in 1990 or so Rimple wanted to ride her bike from the Back Mountain to the Susquehanna River. Lacking a suitable path she wandered into a local bike shop and was directed to a group of like-minded people who were meeting in the Back Mountain and working on a variety of projects to improve the community.
One of those projects was the trail. Judy joined the group and over time - decades of time - land that once was a railroad bed has been acquired, cleared, marked, traversed and enjoyed.
The Back Mountain Trail starts in Luzerne and follows a path adjacent to state Route 309. It is a simple path, sometimes in close earshot of the highway, sometimes drifting away. As it passes into Kingston Township it rises gently. That path is covered by a canopy of trees and leads to a bridge and a waterfall and a little notch valley and nice view points. It has things of the country - birds and small mammals and burrs and ticks and weeds and flowers. It attracts people and people with dogs and joggers and runners. It is the sort of amenity every community should have, one piece of many that makes the Wyoming Valley area a nice place to live.
So to honor the Rimples and the trail, built by an army of volunteers, with an award named for Lemmond was just magical. What could be more down home?
Well, here’s something to reflect on. Charlie Lemmond lived in Dallas for 50 years but he is not from the Back Mountain. He was born in Hazleton and raised in Forty Forty.
Judy Rimple lives in the Back Mountain but she moved here from Colorado. She made our home her home and made it better with unwavering enthusiasm and determination.
It would be appropriate to mention that the presentation of the award Tuesday night - in the Lemmond Theater on the campus of Misericordia University in Dallas Township - was attended by university president Micheal MacDowell and his wife Tina. They are from somewhere else — Colorado and California — and though they are about to retire from serving the school they worked to make a leading institution in the region, they have decided to continue to live here.
Look back far enough and we are all from some other place. Our love of the past and tradition should be in balance with the new energy and suggestions of people who join our community.
Aren’t we lucky then? Charlie Lemmond made the Back Mountain his home. So did Judy Rimple, and the MacDowells and thousands of others. Name another valley community and we can repeat the thought.
Now look out the back door and think of what’s possible. If — with perseverance, ingenuity and determination — a trail can be carved from here to there, what can’t we do?
If we all work together. Joe Butkiewicz is executive editor of The Times Leader.