Columbia’s greenway parks trace their heritage back to a 1905 beautification plan and still provide scenic vistas for hospitality, outreach, education and recreation. That’s according to Karen Kustafik (shown in LinkedIn photo), assistant superintendent of the city’s 31 Park Rangers and Capital Rotary’s Sept. 9 guest speaker. The Rangers oversee eight parks that have opened since 1983 and are looking forward to adding new facilities in the Bull Street area (2020) and a Saluda Riverwalk and Boyd Island bird sanctuary (2021). Riverfront parks recall a bygone era when waterways were key for commerce, moving produce and raw goods from the Upstate and Midlands down to Charleston and back. Today, Kustafik said, parks remain “really good things to have in flood plains because rivers will rise. In a changing climate, rivers seem to rise a little bit more frequently, so the banks of green spaces along waterways help keep us more resilient.” Insect life thrives in wild places, becoming what Kustafik called “building blocks for the rest of life – these insects are critically important” in the natural food chain and as pollinators for plant reproduction. She also praised the sense of quiet reflection that parks provide. “Yes, we live in an urban area, but if you get a good 10- or 15-minute walk in, you can find solitude and a place to reflect,” Kustafik observed. “We have some gorgeous spots where everybody can find peace.” This has been true even during the COVID-19 pandemic, she noted, when local parks remained busy in March and April despite being officially shut down.