The City Train Ride Remains a Hot Topic
As I mentioned, the train ride on the bayfront issue did come up last night. Candidates were asked if they supported keeping the train ride on the bayfront or not. The responses were mixed–there were solid “the train has had its time” (Werner, Estes) as well as “the train must stay” (Sofferdine, Donick, Carruthers). Incumbent Jim Carruthers was invigorated enough in support of the train to claim, “the train is the thing that makes the City unique.”
I’m certainly entrenched in this issue, so it was difficult to sit on my hands last night and keep quiet. I’m not bringing it up now to re-hash the history or the details, but judging from the comments last night, a clarification is needed.
Last week, parks and recreation commission did indeed recommend a plan dubbed the “short loop.” The word compromise was raised, but I don’t believe it is a compromise. That wasn’t our role. Parks and recreation was tasked by the City Commission to reconsider plans that came out of the 2010 process without a train ride and to fit the train back in. The 2010 plans were approved by several boards and commissions, including the City Commission. They were then used to attract grants and donations. It is important for the City to honor that process. The Parks and Recreation Commission voted to reincorporate the train ride in such a way that did not compromise that original intent.
We made a sound recommendation that isn’t a compromise because we concluded, with the recommendation of the hired consultant, the short loop to be the most practical and appropriate out of the five, then two, choices in the latest round to re-incorporate the train. I completely understand that a contingent thinks we are idiots (Save the Spirit FB). They’ve made that abundantly clear online and in emails; that doesn’t change my evaluation.
Below is a follow-up email that I sent to the Planning Commission and the City Commission last Friday. Both groups will have an opportunity to provide their input and approval, with the City Commission obviously casting a deciding go ahead.
Planning Commissioners and City Commissioners,
Last night, Parks and Recreation recommended the “short loop” from the final two design options for the 2012 Clinch Park construction designed by Hamilton-Anderson (HA). The motion passed 6-0.
From my perspective, we made this vote because the other option, “the long-loop”, still poises too many conflicts for both safety as well as active and passive programmable space. This was the second round of designing Clinch Park, each with a different consultant, and each time the same concerns were revealed. The northeast corner of the park is the most coveted space down there and if we are to invest in a plan that draws a diverse mix of people and creates a space to spend an afternoon, this is the location they are going to gravitate towards. The public also recognizes this corner as the primary activity center of the park. It was our view that maintaining the longer route of the train would require a complete redesign and rethink of the project resulting in a considerable loss of time, resources and money to the City. Of major concern on the latter, is a completion date of May 1, 2013 to satisfy the Natural Trust Fund grant.
Although there is dissatisfaction by some in the community with the short loop, it was made known to us last night that if chosen it indeed could be made to work with modifications to the train ride. This was confirmed by the p&r’s superintendent and the City engineer. The commission expressed support for further improvements to the western section of Clinch Park to enhance the experience of a shorter route. For example, there is an excellent opportunity to create a point of interest around a dedicated depot.
Our decision was made in keeping with the spirit of what came out of the 2010 Bayfront Planning process. If you’d like to discuss this further, myself or other parks and recreation commissioners are available. The other P&R Commissioners may have other reasons for their vote.
We look forward to moving forward to construction in the fall of 2012.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Comments will remain open on this post, but please follow the Comments Policy. If you have questions about specific details to the process or the mechanics behind parks and recreation’s decision, I encourage you to attend one of the many meetings where this issue will be discussed. You are also encouraged to send letters of support or opposition to the appropriate commissions.