Paved with good intentions

Chingawassa needs more money? Let’s do in Marion’s family-friendly Central Park what isn’t done in New York City’s less friendly park of the same name: sell beer a few feet from where kids are playing.

The historic and architecturally beautiful Marion Public Library, already with a nice meeting room, needs more space? Let’s put up one of those “attractive” metal outbuildings. Who knows? It might even match the “attractive” metal shed the county wants to build, in full view of visitors to Central Park, just across the now-deforested river.

Good ideas? Bad ideas? You tell us. We may be a bit out of step with public sentiment on this, but we have to question whether actions like these fit Marion’s vision for its future. We thought Marion was going to focus on beauty, arts, and crafts. To some, at least, recent decisions seem more focused on Marion growing into a mecca for activity that — well, the word we’ve heard used to describe it is “redneck.”

Ramona’s humorous claim to being the redneck capital of the world aside, there’s a very fine line between having a central business district that focuses on antiques, arts, and crafts, as many fine stores currently do, and one that focuses on, for lack of a better term, junk.

Even with all the safeguards included in this week’s plans, decisions like saying it’s OK to sell beer in the park and allow metal sheds to pop up like weeds while stately stone structures crumble into disrepair can tip the balance.

Have we gone too far, or not far enough?

It’s not that anyone’s intentions are bad. Chingawassa does need more money, the safeguards against children drinking for this one-time event probably are adequate, and our very active library — a centerpiece of the community — probably can program the extra space to great advantage. Plus, the “shed” actually might be quite attractive, with a fancy brick façade on one side, mirroring that of the old depot.

The problem is, the road to you-know-where can easily be paved by the greatest of intentions.

What’s needed is a plan.

Instead of a new metal shed for county records, how about investing in a system to digitize them?

Instead of complaining that taxes will have to be raised to pay for exemptions designed to spur business, how about forgoing some costly and not terribly useful system like spy-camera photography of county real estate to free up money to pay for incentives?

Instead of each and every entity demanding its own inexpensive building, how about spending some money to convert one of the few remaining historic limestone structures into something that can serve as a home for all those needs?

Where some people see needed progress, others wonder whether our community can’t see the forest (or lack thereof, in the case of the Luta Creek riverbanks) for the trees of individual bureaucratic needs.

Are local leaders actually crafting a master plan, or do they seem to deal with everything as a one-of situation? If they do have a central agenda, is it more about keeping well-qualified volunteers off such things as planning and zoning panels than it is about reinvigorating the community? We honestly don’t know.

Meanwhile, as you bounce your car along streets destroyed last year and still languishing in disrepair, we appear likely to be able to point with pride to sprouting sheds and the precedent set by a one-time Central Park beer garden. The question is, what’s next? A law requiring that we all get a six-pack and sit in sleeveless undershirts on lawn chairs next to rusted-out junkers in our yards? Or is “Tequilla Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” just innocent fun we all should enjoy?

We aren’t sure. It’s your town. You tell us.

— ERIC MEYER

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