Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bad News


Dear friends,

I have just heard devastating news.

Short-circuiting our efforts to stop the sale of our parkland connecting Jackson Hill and Ridge Ferry Park, Ledbetter Properties, I am told, has decided today to exercise their bargain option to buy the entire tract --- all of our public property between Jackson Hill and Ridge Ferry Park. We have two commissioners --- Wendy Davis and Sue Hamler Lee --- who have looked at our wetland and floodplain with Hundred Year Eyes and seen its value to our posterity. Unless there is enough of an outcry to change three minds on the City Commission that property will be re-zoned to allow the apartments.

We have to somehow convince three of these folks --- before Monday Sept. 28 --- to change their minds:

Kim Canada,706-291-7844
Bill Collins, 706-291-0208
Jamie Doss, 706-295-4008
Bill Irmscher, 706-234-6555
Evie McNeice, 706-237-6070
Milton Slack, 706-291-6811
Buzz Wachsteter, 706-291-0678

Please take a few minutes now to call or e-mail these folks. Let them know that we cannot let this happen. Beg, plead, demand, that our children and grandchildren and theirs have this beautiful link to explore along our rivers then through this wetland and to the top of Jackson Hill. Few other cities have a wildlife/wildflower treasure like this in its very center. Tell them to vote against a change of zoning and to try to negotiate a way out of what I believe is a very bad deal with Ledbetter Properties.

Demand they use their Hundred Year Eyes.

Look again at this picture.

Read the words of the city's decade-old plan for our property at Burwell Creek.

Read the words on this very appropriate cartoon.

Hundred Year Eyes

When Daniel Mitchell, Zacharia Hargrove, Philip Hemphill, William Smith, and John Lumpkin  met in 1834 at that little spring near the confluence of the Etowah and Oostanaula they dreamed of a city that did not exist. They saw our valley with “hundred-year-eyes.”
When Daniel Mitchell laid out Broad Street, he made it truly “broad”. He used two full “Gunter’s chains” to establish its width. Now our downtown main street is 132 feet wide. Surely he was seeing that street with “hundred-year-eyes”.

Developers salivated when they saw the in-town wooded acres along Horseleg Creek. But for the “hundred-year-eyes of Mac Marshall, Lewis Lipps, Phillip Greear, Robert Weed, Wilson Hall, Elizabeth and Bernard Neal, Margie Harbin and others, this beautiful unban forest would be gone.

It was a near thing last century when the city vacated the old Carnegie Library to build the new library. Some said the old library was really nothing special. After all, there were twenty other Carnegie Libraries in Georgia. It was not a unique building. Why not tear it down and use that downtown property for something else. But the commissioners voted to preserve that old building and refurbish it for city offices. I’m glad they had eyes to see the value to our posterity of preserving the character of our downtown in this way..
Casey Hine and others looked our largely deserted downtown in the seventies and eighties with its grand old exteriors often covered with aluminum. With eyes to the future they imagined a re-invigorated Broad Street with trees and flowers and brick-lined streets and sidewalks. Streetscape was born of hundred-year-vision.
Image result for desoto rome ga

When Lam Theaters decided to close the Desoto Theater, that treasure could have been lost, like the First Avenue Theater before it, or even more tragically the magnificent Nevin Opera House. But the folks involved in the Rome Little Theatre went way out on a financial limb and bought it to use for our community live theater. What a blessing to Rome the Desoto has been for another half century now! All thanks to the “hundred-year-eyes” of people like Kathy Greear, Norris Gamble, Sidney Guy Johnston, Joel Jones, Mary Doster, Virginia McChesney, and many others.
Image result for berry college rome ga

Martha Berry had “hundred-year-eyes” when she saw opportunities to buy up land around what had been her father’s estate to add to her little school’s holding. Wise use of those lands has helped to make Berry one of the best and most beautiful campuses in the world, and provided a laboratory for the environmental program rated among the two bets in the world. And her foresight helped make Rome an appealing location for businesses.

Here is what is left of our "Duck Pond" with the Burwell Creek wetland to the left and Jackson Hill in the background.

The tracks of many different species of wildlike are captured in the drying mud of what was once our little Duck Pond at the intersection of Turner McCall and Riverside Parkway.

Next Monday the folks we elected to the Rome City Commission will discuss again whether to sell our beautiful downtown greenspace/wetland/duckpond/beaver-fox-deer-salamnder-crawdad-dragonfly-great-blue-heron-etc-habitat so that a private developer can bulldose it, haul in umpteen yards of fill material, and put up a group of apartments and a strip mall. This gorgeous property, that belongs to us, may be taken from our children and grandchildren, if you and I remain silent. I won’t. We have a beautiful city. It is a magnet to businesses that want an environment attractive to their employees and themselves. Let’s keep it. Let’s make it even better than we found it.

Here is contact information for our commissioners:
Bill Irmscher 706-234-6555

Milton Slack 706-291-6811

Buzz Wachsteter 706-291-0678

Jamie Doss 706-295-4008

Bill Collins 706-291-0208

Kim Canada 706-291-7844

Evie McNiece 706-237-6070

We already have the public support of:

Sue Lee 706-235-2067

Wendy Davis or 706-290-0606

I have a simple but difficult requirement of the men and women you see pictured here. I ask them to have eyes for more than the here and now, more than the current bottom line, more than the immediate jobs and possible future tax revenues. (What percentage of those jobs and what percentage of those taxes can come from other new development or increased sales at current businesses?) I ask our public servants to have hundred-year-eyes. I want them to think of the Romans of 2115 every time they cast a vote. The decisions we make in 2015 will affect the lives of others besides ourselves. I believe the citizens of a hundred years from now will thank us for preserving a great “central park”. Imagine that beautiful wetland with boardwalks and trails and interpretive signage. Imagine the hiking and biking trails continuous from our wonderful Jackson Hill though this greenspace and on to the Riverwalk and thence to Silver Creek in one direction, State Mutual Stadium in another, and Berry’s trails in another.

The lushness of the plants in the wetland itself make a verdant wonderland.

The fall wildflowers were dazling last week -- purple ironweed, yellow wild sunflowers, and several clouds of mixed white blooms.

This grassy area has been used, obviously, by the whitetail deer as a bedroom.

Such a park system will bring new business, new residents, and new prosperity to Rome and Floyd County to surpass the proposed building project many tmes over. Let’s preserve this wetland and greenspace as part of a great Central Park for our children and grandchildren, and all the future citizens of our beautiful city.