The other night, my mother in law, who has a genius for distilling a complex issue into its essence, said as she was polishing off her daily Dispatch crossword, “Columbus has too many people finding fault with it instead of finding good.”
You got that right, Granny.
Earlier she had been reading comments on the opinion pages where readers have been bashing the idea of creating a pedestrian walkway out of the old river bridge.
“I”ve always thought this was the prettiest little town you”ll see anywhere. I fell in love with it when we moved here (the early 60s),” Granny said.
“There was something in tonight”s paper that there wouldn”t be 12 people a day on the bridge,” she continued. “They said the same thing about the Riverwalk.”
Who can argue that the Riverwalk is anything but a success story. On any pleasant afternoon, it is covered with boys and girls of all ages, shapes and colors. The walkway builds community, promotes good health and offers all manner of flora and fauna — evenings the place is teeming with rabbits; armadillos, raccoons and deer live there as well.
The human activity is equally interesting. There”s a lanky, late-afternoon jogger with an iPod who sings country music lyrics at the top of his voice as he runs. Friday afternoon around 6:30, a Latino man, also plugged into an iPod, sat at a picnic table and belted out what sounded like Spanish love songs. The walk seems to be a favorite for portrait photographers. It”s not uncommon to see high school beauties in full prom regalia smiling for a camera
The bridge renovation might not be our most pressing need, but we”ve got an opportunity to do it now with a grant that will pay for 80 percent of it. The money must be used for the bridge and if it”s not, we lose it.
This brings to mind the story Willie Morris told of riding around the countryside of his native Yazoo with Eudora Welty. They came upon a country road called Paradise Lane. Morris asked Miss Welty if she wanted turn down the road.
“We”d be fools not to,” Miss Welty replied.
What alternative would critics of the bridge renovation suggest — that it sit there and deteriorate?
The same blogger referred to James Tsismanakis and Dewitt Hicks of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau as “Downtown Darlings.” Our downtown is a darling; our historic architecture and river front are the envy of so many communities. We”d be fools not to do all we can to preserve, embellish and promote those resources.
Let”s stop bashing Columbus and the people out there trying to do something. Rather than gripe, get involved. Call the United Way”s Volunteer Center, Friends of the Library, the Columbus Arts Council, the Master Gardeners or Main Street Columbus.
Tomorrow at 5:30 at the municipal complex, landscape architects and engineers will unveil plans for Tan Yard Park, the soccer/nature complex in Burns Bottom. The design of the park is evolving and the designers are anxious for citizen input. Plans are to connect the park and Riverwalk with a walking bridge that will run along the north bank of Moore”s Creek. The connector will go under the bridges on the town side of the Ruben”s turnoff.
Tan Yard Park will be one more piece of the riverfront puzzle that one day may include the Corps land adjacent to the Riverwalk. With the bridge restoration, maybe a savvy entrepreneur will put something on the Island.
Here”s an idea: What about a drive-in with barbecue, hamburgers and plate lunches with a terrace patio overlooking the river? I know a one-armed man who would make a great cook. Call it Bob”s Place.
Late Thursday I drove out to Graham”s Camphouse and Cultural Center for a Market Street Festival sponsor party. It was the loveliest of evenings, cool, low humidity; a soft breeze was blowing. Jimmy and Jo Ann Graham have created a marvelous thing out on Old West Point Road. The marvelous thing, really, is the Grahams” generosity; they”ve hosted hundreds of community meetings, class reunions and church socials at their elegant array of buildings that include a local history museum, an outdoor dining area with a freestanding fireplace, a dining house and sprawling beds of native plants. Everything is made from what looks to be salvaged native materials and everywhere you look there are details that delight.
As I navigated the gardens in the soft twilight I could see through the main building clusters of animated people enjoying one another. Familiar acoustic guitar music wafted through the trees — Paul Brady singing Neil Young”s Harvest Moon. I stood there listening, trying to freeze the scene. It was one of those perfect moments, one you”d like to put in a jar and keep like a lightning bug caught on a summer evening.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.
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