Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Rich on What We've Got

Hiked down Saturday afternoon from near Chelsea Parade, where we live, to Howard Brown Park for the Taste of Italy. Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, volunteers, vendors, and everyone else who worked so hard to make it all happen. It was large fun, a gorgeous day and a delicious experience and it success helps underscore a fundamental point: offer people a reason to come to downtown Norwich and they will, because they did on Saturday in droves.

I mention that for anyone still sorting hope from fear, and fact from fiction, about the three bond initiatives on the November ballot, in this case, the one for downtown revitalization. I don't think the proposal is perfect, or close to it, but it's a lot better than the 'single building, now we're on the move' well-meaning rhetoric that's masqueraded as a plan for (too) many years. I think the bonding initiatives are worth your consideration and your yes vote, because I believe where I live matters and that where I live matters to more than just me.

But let's put all the money aside and talk about what each of us can do in our part of Norwich that doesn't cost money, but can mean the world. Returning to Saturday and walking from Chelsea Parade down Washington Street towards Brown Park, the litter along the curb runs almost the length of the street. As a matter of fact, almost anywhere you look in Norwich there's trash at the curb, on the sidewalks and front lawns or in the streets. Some of it happens because when the trash and recycling boxes are emptied and detritus falls on the ground, no one picks it up. We don't need a three million dollar bond issue to put trash in its place but if each of us picked up one piece of junk every day, we'd soon have a handle on the litter.

And lest I forget, you still can't walk along the Heritage Trail to Brown Park because the passage under the Sweeney Bridge remains closed from after the fire at the miniature golf course. There was some talk this time last year of opening all of that, after the seawall reconstruction was accomplished, for the 350th anniversary, but that was just talk I guess. Besides, there's always 2059 to look forward to.

And good luck walking on the sidewalks across from the former Buckingham School all the way to the Sweeney Bridge because they are a nightmare and a safety hazard. All the broken concrete allows weeds and other flora and fauna to grow wild, adding that 'untamed' flavor that urban planners say is so important in modern downtowns these days. Actually, there are portions of sidewalk on both sides of Washington that are practically impassable. Berserk bushes, overgrown shrubbery, household garbage, broken glass, discarded fast food containers, dirty diapers, the flotsam and jetsam of life in the 21st Century, strewn like so much junk all across the horizon.

And we don't even see it anymore. We've become inured to the thousands of discarded cigarette butts near the pedestrian islands across from the Flat Iron building. The next time you're out walking downtown, check them out for yourself. I'm sure they will still be there. Squaring away our sidewalks and side streets would take thirty minutes, probably less, out of our week, but we've decided it's not our job to make where we live a better and nicer place to be. We'd rather complain about what we don't have rather than conserve and preserve what we do. And perhaps, in the end that's why there's so much unease about the bonding initiatives-maybe we're afraid, we're just not worth the money. And maybe we're right.
-bill kenny

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