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Ironton can prepare for change

While volunteering a couple weekends ago for the little Ironton in Bloom “cornfest” during the Saturday morning Farmers Market, I had the opportunity to sit back a little bit and take it all in.

Farmers were busy doing commerce. People were socializing. Kids were running and playing in the spraypark. And all of this was on a Saturday morning in downtown Ironton. I had a sense of satisfaction that people were actually happy and enjoying themselves.

Stepping back, I also remember that about 15 years ago we were preparing a grant application for one of our initial phases of the downtown revitalization program, which included the demolition of dilapidated properties and construction of the current downtown municipal lots.

During one of the meetings in preparation of that application, I remember a comment that was made: “Why would we be building parking lots in downtown Ironton when there is nobody there and there is lots of parking available on the streets?”

Thinking in retrospect, that person was probably right in what he was saying. However, sometimes we have to think about where we want be and give it our best efforts working together to get there, hopefully making as few mistakes as possible.

Back 15 years ago, I had no vision of a bustling little farmers market and kids playing in a spraypark. Sprayparks probably didn’t even exist outside of places such as Disney World at that time. However, I could envision people being back on the streets going to and from work along with residents in the upper floors of buildings, much as they were back in the so called “hay days” of Ironton.

Over these past years, one has to give respect to our elected officials and community leaders. Many of the decisions that were made by those individuals have now led to this modest sense of community that now exists in the downtown.

These decisions have been made with much public discussion and input. With that input, I think decisions were made, oftentimes with provisions to address legitimate concerns that were raised during that public debate.

Currently, as in many other redeveloping communities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Marietta, much discussion has focused upon alternative modes of transportation such as pedestrian, bicycles, mopeds, street certified carts and the like. All of these are important nowadays for a vibrant urban residential community.

If you look at other communities, it is a matter of logistics on how you get people around in more densely populated urban areas. Although cars are not likely to disappear in communities like Ironton during our lifetime, the challenge is where can we stack all of those vehicles and still have room for people and their residences.

Therefore, should the debate be whether to allow street legal carts, motorized chairs, bicycles, etc., or should it be more focused on how we best be prepared to support and implement these likely inevitable changes?

That is not to say that public safety isn’t important, but we all weigh-in on those decisions everyday when we choose the type of vehicle we buy, to hopefully be “bigger and safer” than the other guy.

If we want to prepare for the inevitable, then there are things we can do to make safe ways for these alternative modes of transportation.

Just as we have developed the transit center, bus stops, etc., for public transit, we can also construct bike and pedestrian trails to keep those individuals off heavily traveled streets. Likewise, with street legal carts and other similar vehicles, we as a community can develop ways to do traffic calming and develop routes to get those individuals to utilize less-traveled and noncongested streets.

If agreed, then the question should be, “Do we embrace the inevitable changes coming and do we work to prepare for it?”

The alternative is for the community to wait and react to these inevitable changes, oftentimes after a tragedy strikes to bring it to our community focus.

 

Ralph Kline is the assistant executive director of development and planning for the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization.