George Hancock

Sept. 1 began meteorological autumn. All official autumn weather data are recorded from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. The National Weather Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other weather scientists use these dates to maintain uniform weather records.

Traditionalists celebrate autumn’s beginning on the autumnal equinox. This year the equinox occurs Sept. 22.

Soon, Mother Nature will share her autumn treasures with everyone.

The Tribune-Democrat is filled with numerous fascinating stories. Dave Sutor’s excellent article “Answers to halting population decline remain elusive” provided miles of reflective thought.

Sutor detailed the incredible figures released by the Census Bureau concerning Cambria County’s projected 2020 population decline.

The Census Bureau reported that as of July 2019, Cambria County’s population dropped from 143,679 to 130,192. That figure represents a 9.4% decline. Sutor wrote, “That 9.4% drop, if maintained through the ongoing official nationwide head count, would be the second-largest decline in Cambria County’s two-century history, surpassed only by an 11% loss in the 1990s.”

I see two factors contributing to this population decline from my age group perspective. First, we have a higher death than birth rate. So many individuals my age or younger are dying due to numerous reasons.

And second, many people my age are leaving the region in order to live closer to their children or other siblings.

Unfortunately, there is little one can do about this point.

These departures are understandable under these circumstances.

There’s a great photograph circulating on Facebook. The photo depicts the baseball team members from the 1993 movie, “The Sandlot.” The caption reads, “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play together for the last time and nobody knew it.”

That photo had me reflecting. I’m the only one left from our neighborhood team.

Some passed away and the others left decades ago. Sadly, a house now sits on our old ballfield.

It was a sad, poignant reflection. Yet, we must remember our mission remains simple. Those left must diligently ensure a decent quality of life exists for those staying. We are blessed to have many great individuals and groups working tirelessly toward this goal.

Our recreation outlets across various venues are outstanding. Numerous events populate our calendar providing fantastic art, music and other cultural opportunities.

Of course, the COVID-19 situation has curtailed many activities this year. However, many individuals are working toward quality future events.

One recent event illustrates what communities can do to thwart the population slide.

Stopping the slide under current conditions is virtually impossible. Yet, free thinking individuals can devise workable plans that ease this troubled scenario.

Kudos to the Ferndale and Conemaugh Valley school districts for creating a co-op plan that permits Ferndale football players to continue their careers. The PIAA Board of Directors recently approved this co-op plan. Well done, all.

COVID-19 slammed the local student bodies removing eagerly anticipated events from their academic calendar. Ferndale students faced a reduced football season due to low player numbers. So, Ferndale and Conemaugh Valley created an intriguing WestPAC football situation. I imagine other small districts will monitor this co-op as the season unfolds. Perhaps those districts with declining population numbers will study possible co-op programs.

I’m a huge proponent of lifelong exercise, as readers of my column learn. My lifelong running program is in its 47th year. I started road running as a 20-year-old lad. Now at age 67, I’m reaping the benefits of my program.

I applaud the PIAA for permitting the fall athletic schedule. Our youngsters need this outlet. One could argue that exercise, diet and nutrition are more important than any academic subject. Athletics expose our youth to the numerous values associated with exercising on a regular basis. A sound mind in a weak body is a receipt for health issues.

Our local school districts have guidelines ensuring the health and safety of all participants. Our region is not the same as the densely populated Pittsburgh or Philadelphia regions. We live in a healthy environment. Student-athletes can safely play their game.

September is here. Run and play on!

George A. Hancock of Scalp Level Borough is an occasional contributor to the editorial page.

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