Now that Mayor Sandy Stimpson has been re-elected and is all snuggled in for another four years running America’s most potentially exciting city, it seems like a good time to pester hizzoner about a few things that might make his second four years even more memorable than the first.
While Stimpson is certain to keep pushing his One Mobile theme, along with plans to make the city safer and more family- and business-friendly by 2020, there are still other things he should tackle that could leave a lasting legacy.
I’ll admit up front some readers may find these ideas a little pie-in-the-sky, but if you’ll just settle down and drink four or five strong cocktails, it’ll all start to make sense.
A bay-front park
First and foremost, one thing this mayor and City Council should really take seriously is finding a way to give citizens of this burg an opportunity to get out on our famous bay without having to either inherit a house or be otherwise financially blessed.
Yes, I’m talking about creating a bay-front park.
While the vast majority of city frontage along Mobile Bay is privately owned and part of residences, the University of South Alabama Foundation has roughly 300 acres of land at Brookley that would make an amazing park. Most of that is the former USA Gulf Pines golf course — a truly gorgeous piece of real estate.
The Foundation has repeatedly made clear it wants to develop this property, but it seems like such a huge waste to have it rolled over to create Days Inns, extended-stay condos or whatever they have in mind.
For some reason we Mobilians have become complacent about not having access to both our river and our bay. More than a few people I’ve met over the years were actually surprised to know there IS a river downtown. But the river is heavily industrialized already and not really conducive to water sports or fishing, unless getting run over by a tugboat is your idea of a good time.
The land at Brookley, though, would provide great access to the bay, where people could fish and swim, or paddleboard and kayak. Imagine how nice it would be to take a five-minute drive to a park where you could actually enjoy the water you might have read about in a history book.
Ever since the Deepwater Horizon exploded and the always-about-to-be-released BP money became a constant discussion, it has seemed like a no-brainer for Mobile to somehow use that money to make the Foundation an offer it can’t refuse in order to create Mobile’s most important park. What would be more environmentally sound than preserving acres of oak-covered shoreline?
If Mobile could accomplish this — along with adding a pier that’s one foot longer than Fairhope’s — it would be transformative. It would also greatly help improve downtown living to have a terrific park just a few minutes away. Maybe even a trolley from the park to downtown as well?
Once that land is gone, it’s gone. There won’t be another opportunity for the city of Mobile to reconnect with its namesake bay. And as traffic congestion makes it harder and harder to get over to Baldwin County to visit the beaches, many of us will just end up as pathetic landlubbers who might as well be living in a mall. (OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but you get the drift.)
Of course creating such a park would be expensive and complex, but unlike Mobile’s history of build-it-and-they-will-come projects, a waterfront park is sure to be used for generations.
So, speaking of congestion, let’s hope this next four years ends with a new Interstate 10 bridge actively being constructed. No one can really argue any longer that we don’t need this bridge. It should have been started at least five years ago.
While the multiple sources of funding and massive cost of the project are primarily what have kept it on the drawing board so far, the city needs to make more noise about getting it done. There will be a governor’s race next year, and that’s a great opportunity for Stimpson to bend a lot of ears, because it’s going to take support at the state and federal level to get this thing built.
I’m not saying the mayor hasn’t been active, but maybe it’s time he loaded up all those gubernatorial candidates, members of ALDOT and federal transportation experts into a car and tried to drive them through the Wallace Tunnel at 5 p.m. on a Friday. They’ll be begging to fund the bridge.
Sandy, if there’s one other thing you could do to really leave a long-standing mark on this city in your second term, somehow breaking the citizenry’s love affair with throwing trash into the streets would be it.
The city has made some strides over the past four years, and I know litter is one of Stimpson’s biggest irritations, but it’s time to get really crazy. There are still just too many people who toss cans, cigarette butts, fast-food bags and dirty diapers out of their car windows. It’s like they’re in some kind of 60 mph Mardi Gras parade where people want to catch filthy diapers.
We need a good anti-litter campaign and the cops should write tickets to people throwing anything out of their windows. On top of that, the city needs to find a way to take on the Press-Register’s hurling of thousands of plastic bags containing unwanted advertising circulars every week.
It’s amazing such a high-profile and at one time very important corporate citizen continues to throw thousands of pounds of trash onto streets and sidewalks every week and the city has to stand by meekly while they do it.
If by the end of the next four years it’s possible to drive on litter-free streets down to a new bay-front park where one can look north and see the new I-10 bridge well under construction, that would be a job well done.
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