As we approach the season of Thanksgiving, it’s appropriate to survey all the blessings that surround us in Franklin County, from the vistas at Smith Mountain Lake to the Blue Ridge, from the pleasure of living in a town like Rocky Mount to the joys of hiking a trail at Jamison Mill Park near Philpott Lake.

There’s one department in Franklin County government that lays many of the blessings of living here at the feet of each and every resident — literally. It’s the Franklin County Parks & Recreation Department and its director, Paul Chapman. All Chapman and his department really want Franklin citizens to do is this: Step out and take advantage of all that’s out there – from outdoor recreation, to fitness and wellness classes, to athletics.

Let’s walk through some of those opportunities, highlighting a few out of a slew in the department’s Franklin County Playbook guide for this fall:

• For the 50 and older crowd, there’s line dancing every Tuesday at the Essig Recreation Center. Participants are invited to “learn the health benefits of line dance; your body and brain will thank you.” There’s also pickleball, a cross between tennis and ping pong on steroids, a game that challenges hand/eye coordination.

• In the athletics arena, there are opportunities for youth from basketball to indoor soccer to wrestling to karate.

• For those out for better fitness and/or wellness, there’s everything from beginner hip-hop classes to ballet lessons, and yoga classes to – of all things — beginning tumbling.

• Ever wonder how to create your own compost? There’s a life skills workshop for that, which shows participants how to construct their own tumbler-style composter using a 53- to 55-gallon food grade barrel. Hurry, though, because the last one of these workshops for the fall is Nov. 21. And don’t forget to bring your own power drill, plus bits and a drill bit for wood screws. Oh, and you’ll need to haul away your finished product.

• In the great outdoors of Franklin County, there’s the annual New Year’s Day tradition of the Creek Freaks New Year’s Day Float down the Blackwater River, which the guide bills as, ahem, “an exhilarating way to start the new year.” And the Crooked Road 24-hour Ultra at Waid Park running from Nov. 23-24. Participants are not expected to run for 24 hours straight, which is good to know.

• For those definitely not into the idea of running for either 24 hours or 24 minutes or 24 seconds, there are the Walks by Water events this November, featuring the challenging, 8-mile Dogwood Glen Trail at Philpott Dam, scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 19. Or, for those seeking a more leisurely walk, there’s the 2-mile leg-stretcher at Smith Mountain Lake Community Park on Nov. 26, which has as a reward of a stop at Homestead Creamery after the hike concludes.

For a county our size, this sampling itself is an impressive list of activities for young and old, coordinated by our parks and recreation department. If you see Paul Chapman or any of his associates over the Thanksgiving holidays, thank them for all they do.

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