A sense of place

Starkville Daily News - - FORUM -

Sum­mer is pretty much here and

Starkville has al­ready had sev­eral big events to get folks out­side.

The Cot­ton

District Arts Fes­ti­val, the King Cot­ton Craw­fish Boil and other out­door at­trac­tions have helped ring in the sun­shine and now that school is out, the pace of the town is chang­ing for sum­mer.

The ef­forts of folks like the Greater Good Col­lec­tive and the Camp fam­ily turned a piece of Starkville - across from a ceme­tery, mind you - into a vi­brant fam­ily-friendly minia­ture arts fes­ti­val, alive with mu­sic and peo­ple spend­ing money.

The year's first Sun­day Fun­day on Uni­ver­sity Drive next to City Bagel seemed to be a re­sound­ing suc­cess this past week­end. The city has been ac­com­mo­dat­ing with the event's growth and as the or­ga­niz­ers get their feet un­der them, they will only get big­ger and bet­ter at what they do.

These kinds of events raise the qual­ity of life for peo­ple of all ages and in­come lev­els. Sun­day Fun­day was free, whole­some and in a safe area. There weren't drunk col­lege kids puk­ing into trash cans and the mu­sic was at a rea­son­able vol­ume, so town­ies of all be­liefs should be able to get be­hind that, right?

While I'm not a city plan­ner, I think the op­por­tu­ni­ties for Starkville are many - it's just a mat­ter of fol­low­ing through and be­ing in­no­va­tive.

As a dis­claimer, I do not have an an­swer to any of these ques­tions, but I know we have a com­mu­nity full of bright folks ca­pa­ble of re­al­iz­ing the city's po­ten­tial.

For in­stance, the former site of the Starkville Com­mu­nity Mar­ket on the cor­ner of Lamp­kin and Jack­son in down­town seems per­fect for some­thing other than a va­cant lot.

The wide green space makes the cor­ner more at­trac­tive than it would oth­er­wise be and the pos­si­bil­i­ties are many. At the of­fice, we of­ten joke about what we would do if we owned the lot, and I think the right idea could dras­ti­cally im­prove the look and feel of that cor­ner, es­pe­cially with the former Board­town Trad­ing Post build­ing sit­ting empty and the green grass on the cor­ner sur­rounded by an iron fence. If there is an area in our down­town that needs ad­dress­ing, it's that cor­ner.

While I don't own the prop­erty and have zero say other than the words in this col­umn, I think we need to make the most of ev­ery sliver of green space we have in the city.

Fire Sta­tion Park is a fan­tas­tic ex­am­ple of what is pos­si­ble just in down­town. It's not Cen­tral Park, no, but or­ga­ni­za­tions like the GSDP do a lot with a lit­tle by host­ing award­win­ning events and rolling out a new out­door con­cert series.

Which brings me to my next hope: tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism.

Many is­sues di­vide the Starkville Board of Al­der­men, but not this one. Last Novem­ber, al­der­men unan­i­mously ap­proved the plans for a pro­to­type tac­ti­cal ur­ban­ism project on Uni­ver­sity Drive in front of the Starkville-Ok­tibbeha County Pub­lic Li­brary.

No last­ing changes have come to the lane in front of the li­brary, but just based on my am­a­teur eye test, if you pulled up all the mon­key grass and mulch be­tween the build­ing and the side­walk wrap­ping around the build­ing (leav­ing the trees for shade of course), you free up at least 10 feet of space along the li­brary go­ing from the front of the build­ing and around the cor­ner. You could lay sod and host wider out­door li­brary events that could at­tract new faces to the li­brary. This is a novice ob­ser­va­tion, and one I'm sure land­scap­ers and ar­chi­tects would be quick to point out faults in, but my point is that we have space that we could be us­ing in dif­fer­ent ways to

im­prove the look and feel of our city.

My hope, though, is that the city will con­tinue to build upon the con­cept of turn­ing un­der-uti­lized city space into some­thing that can be en­joyed in more ways than just some­thing nice to look at.

Ward 4 Al­der­man Jason Walker said in Novem­ber that “Any time that you can re­claim some of that space that is not be­ing used to its best and fullest po­ten­tial is an op­por­tu­nity to look at.”

So I say, let's do it. The spring rains that put many lo­cal con­struc­tion projects be­hind sched­ule are pretty much gone so we don't have any ex­cuse if this is some­thing the city is truly com­mit­ted to now. There is also an obli­ga­tion on the part of ci­ti­zens to be vo­cal about what they want to see hap­pen. There's a pub­lic comment sec­tion dur­ing all meet­ings for that rea­son, so it's im­por­tant that the freedom is ex­er­cised.

I think down­town Starkville has so much po­ten­tial to un­lock and if we as a com­mu­nity can fol­low through on the vi­sions we lay out, then we can make

down­town ex­actly what we want it to be, just like the Greater Good Col­lec­tive, the GSDP and Starkville Area Arts Coun­cil have done with their events. It takes a vil­lage, though - not just its lead­ers.

Into the heat of sum­mer, you will be sure to run into pop-up art shops around the city. Sun­day Fun­day will bring folks out on oth­er­wise slow week­ends, so why not find a cre­ative way to fur­ther marry the arts com­mu­nity and tac­ti­cal ur­ban­iza­tion projects?

What do we have to lose? I thought cost-ef­fi­ciency was the whole rea­son to do projects like this, so I re­ally don't think money will be an is­sue, ei­ther. If you help peo­ple de­velop a sense of place through these projects, it will pay div­i­dends.

And if we can im­prove the qual­ity of life through more green space and pro­vide things to bring the com­mu­nity to those spa­ces, then the so­cial fab­ric of this city will just be­come that much stronger.

Ryan Phillips is the ex­ec­u­tive editor of the Starkville Daily News. The views ex­pressed in this col­umn are his and do not nec­es­sar­ily re­flect the views and opin­ions of the news­pa­per or its staff.

RYAN PHILLIPS

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