June 13, 2009
Birney Imes - firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, I suppose we''ve all heard more than enough about Burns Bottom and the six soccer fields that seem destined to go there. Many have expressed outrage at the idea, and all I can say is let your supervisor and councilman know. Write us a letter or comment on a story or column on the subject -- many of you have done that already.
Some say this was a foregone conclusion -- a decision made months ago -- and what we''ve heard since is simply window dressing. Could be.
Friday afternoon I drove to Starkville to have a look at that sportsplex. It''s about two miles southwest of downtown on Lynn Lane, not far from the George M. Bryan Airport. It doesn''t seem out of place on this road of apartment complexes and the occasional small business.
On that afternoon, the parking lot next to the activities center was crowded, but the soccer fields, except for one man doing stretching exercises, were empty. Otherwise there was an expanse of grassy fields with nets and light poles. It was, well, a soccer complex, great for its intended purpose, but not exactly a thing of beauty, nor something you would put in the middle of town.
A couple of noteworthy things have been said in this recent dialogue about Burns Bottom. Harry Sanders said he would like to see that area become like Central Park in New York City. It was a surprisingly visionary statement, though maybe not in the way Mr. Sanders meant it.
For New Yorkers, Central Park offers a much needed respite from the pressures of city living. It''s a nature preserve, an arboretum, a haven for rollerbladers, joggers, sandlot ballplayers, even equestrians and bird watchers. It has a zoo, lakes and a performance stage. City dwellers hold family reunions there, couples marry, and runners on the home stretch of the New York Marathon huff and puff toward the finish line there. For visitors the park offers a glorious kaleidoscope of humanity, and New York would not be New York without it.
We''re not going to have a Central Park, but with the land in Burns Bottom, the 156 acres of Corps land, the Riverwalk and the old bridge, we have the raw material to create something extraordinary. During our sportsplex discussions, more than one elected official has expressed interest in acquiring both Burns Bottom and the Corps property. It''s a good idea.
But, please, can we look at this in its entirety. Building a soccer complex next to a historic downtown makes no sense; neither does building it in the swampy lowlands that make up so much of Burns Bottom.
Some have complained that the "sportsplex" has become six soccer fields. According to Columbus-Lowndes Recreation Director Roger Short, that should be enough to meet the present need. The new fields will be full size (120 yards x 80 yards) and can be subdivided as need be to accommodate league play.
A comment from Wednesday''s joint meeting with Supervisors, City Council and Parks and Rec hit a sour note with a Saturday caller. One of the supervisors said it, but it seemed to represent the mindset of the group. There was talk that the supervisors would buy the land for the soccer fields. There seemed to be the assumption among the group that since they (the supervisors) were buying the land with "their" money, they would call the shots.
"Excuse me? Whose money?"
The city and county seem, at least for the moment, focused on quality of life improvements. That''s a welcome development; I hope we can maintain that. That focus has been an obvious omission in our otherwise impressive growth over the past five years.
Yes, taking a Central-Park-like approach to our river front would be a remarkable and visionary thing. Let''s do it, though, in a well-considered, holistic manner.
Birney Imes III is Publisher of The Dispatch.