No word yet on whether Winnie the Pooh actually resides in Rome’s equivalent of the Hundred Acre Wood of storybook fame, but maybe we’ll finally find out.
As Bennett accurately pointed out the long, long negotiations over what amounts to a gift has been due to “The EPD made that timetable; that’s not our timetable.” As most know, the next-door former medium-transformer plant, long closed, is a major site of pollutants (PCBs) and, to General Electric’s considerable credit, is involved in a seemingly eternal cleanup process.
The 123-acre wood appears not to have PCBs, nor likely Tiggers either. According to Bennett, apparently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division have finally agreed no continual soil testing will be necessary with about the only requirement being that the city send them photos annually showing how the land is being used, which, according to current plans, seems to involve mainly sports fields and hiking trails with a small, 12-acre separated sliver right at the Redmond Circle curve being reserved for possible retail/commercial just like about everything actually along that street.
IF MEMORY serves, the main portion could also be used as an industrial park, for office buildings — about the only restriction being humans can’t live atop it 24/7 ... just to be on the safe side.
If so, and the city finally has the property in hand with a park on its mind, there will be a new problem to deal with ... two of them, actually.
There is surely no money anywhere in sight in either city or Rome-Floyd Parks and Recreation Authority hands to tackle such a major park development. That means, to state the obvious, it would have to be part of the next SPLOST (special-purpose, local-option sales tax) referendum taken to local voters. At earliest, that would be next spring given the defeat earlier this year of a badly-needed extra penny to replace all the falling-apart police cars, public-works equipment, etc. due to the no-replacement policy of recent years caused by the slumping economy.
That still needs to be addressed as well, not to mention another obvious item: funding the proposed Tennis Center of Georgia by ourselves since the legislators/governor seem intent only on giving our locally provided tax receipts to other parts of the state. Be nice if they funded our schools adequately, too.
Since this newspaper, the instant the possibility of gaining the GE land appeared, pointed out that West Rome residents deserve to have a nice major recreational facility similar to the purpose that Ridge Ferry Park serves on the east side of the community, let’s state the obvious: It would cheer such a new SPLOST being proposed, pushed and voted upon at the earliest opportunity.
That would take care of the first major difficulty in turning a gift sow’s ear into a purse — the money for the stitching and seamstress. However, there’s a second one as well.
ROME HAS to end its “Tale of Two Cities” appearance and truly become one. West Rome has about two-thirds of the city’s 36,000 official bedroom residents (there are probably about 75,000 “Romans” in town daily, they just don’t all sleep here) and most of the voters. It doesn’t have two-thirds of the “good stuff” government hands out nor does it receive even half of the attention.
Perhaps because everything governmental is in East Rome, as well as the largest concentrations of consumer activity and it being where nearly all civic frolics are held, everybody knows the east side of the community calls most of the shots and is where the bulk of the movers-and-shakers can be found. Heck, even this newspaper is headquartered there.
Were it not for having some neat places to eat, the heaviest concentration of “bargain barn” shopping and it being where Sam’s Club/Lowe’s and several movie screens are to be found there would probably be little ability to find an East/South/North Roman in that vicinity. The traffic in the other direction — to work, shop, do government business — is heavy and constant.
One really can’t have a true, unified sense of community under such circumstances. It’s rather amazing that Rome has managed to pull together as well as it has for this long under those conditions. In a sense, the “wealth” resulting from success has not being shared fairly.
MUCH OF THIS is due to West Rome having little “pulling power.” Most everything that draws people — Broad Street, Government Plaza, Ridge Ferry, The Forum, Braves stadium and so forth is on the east side of the Shorter/Midtown dividing line. Even visually, driving down Shorter Avenue’s main drag, the change is instant and obvious.
West Rome needs and deserves for that donated GE land — once part of the old Rome airport — to be both the major all-purpose recreational facility that it lacks and a magnet that pulls all residents — East, West, North, South, unincorporated and from nearby counties — to it.
That’s possible, even was on the front burner for a time, although appears to have faded into distant memory.
Would the Coosa Valley Fair Association (which originally owned the old airport property and gave it to the city in order to lure GE here) still be interested in about a third of the acreage for a new fairgrounds? Indeed, when the city first asked for ideas it was the only entity to offer a proposal.
To be sure, at the time it was no secret that the fair had a possible buyer for its current location on Martin Luther King Boulevard ... supposedly a major retailer. Of course, that was before the ongoing economic downturn and a good guess would be no such purchaser is now present.
Nonetheless, the fair has long needed bigger and better land and facilities. At the time, it even offered to build/pay for all such improvements itself if given the land.
THAT STILL NEEDS to be explored and, if dormant, revived. Such an operation would finally give the west side of Rome a people-pulling destination location. That, in turn, would increase the interaction and cohesion between the two “sides” of the city.
Even today the fairground hosts events other than during the week-long annual Coosa Valley Fair. There are 4-H competitions, flower/herb sales, flea markets and similar. However there also could be, according the association’s bid for the GE property, far more with a bigger, more modern operation such as a year-round home to rodeos, motocross, outdoor concerts, banquets, business meetings, trade shows, reunions, dances, wedding receptions and estate sales.
Rodeos? Motorcycles? Boom-boxing entertainers?
It is important to understand and recognize that the GE site may be the only one remaining in the municipal area where staging noisy events would not matter. To the east it has a strip of industries. To the west is the closed GE plant, perhaps forever. To the north is an endless strip of small shops/enterprises lining Redmond. To the south — where the ballfields/park are envisioned to go — is a school and 50-year-old residential area. A fairgrounds on the main northern intersection of four-lane roads could hold NASCAR races day and night and nobody would hear much of anything. The current fairgrounds are surrounded on three sides by residential.
This vision for use of this “gift” — perhaps the last of such size and quality the community will ever get — is what’s known as a “no-brainer.” For the improved lifestyle of West Romans (and recognition of their existence), for the economic activity of that area, for promoting the mutual interests of residents from every part of town, it should be done.
AND, EVEN with no money presently in the till, that should be the announced goal.
United Rome stands; divided as much as it gives the appearance of being today it must inevitably splinter and fall.