Mountainfest starts tonight. It is supposed to rain. Here’s hoping it pours.
I do this every year. The festival organizers decide, for the however many-th year running, to invite several thousand of their closest friends to town and I rage against their inevitable arrival. I might as well be standing at the edge of the ocean, screaming about the tide.
Rather than use all of that oxygen, let’s just leave it at this: motorcycles aren’t the only way to have a mid-life crisis.
Check ‘em out.
I drove my friend Bill home last night, and while going through town - from VanVoorhis through Wiles Hill, downtown, and finally into Chancery Hill and South Park - we talked about Morgantown being a changing place. He bemoaned the fact that the town today isn’t the town that it once was and I railed against the desolation of once great neighborhoods.
But here’s the thing: time changes everything. Leave a jagged rock in a stream long enough and it will come out as smooth as silk. This is the nature of things.
Which brings me to the proposed regulation of truck traffic downtown. If the trucks are banned, things will change. The ways things were won’t be the way things are. What we’re about to watch is a fight - a legitimate fight - between two sides for whom there exists no middle ground. Those for the ban will claim that keeping the trucks out of town represents a colossal leap forward for the quality of life along the roads those trucks travel. Those against the ban will claim that government is regulation run amok.
If I was a betting man, I’d place money on the truck ban failing. Again. But I only rarely gamble and never with money. Still, it isn’t hard to imagine a group of councilors - Nugent, Bane, Selin, and Shamberger would be my guesses - coming up with a litany of nonsensical objections to even trying the ban, thus further damning the neighborhoods those trucks trundle through. That’s local politics for you.
That’s depressing though. I don’t want to think about the inevitability of disappointment. Instead, I want to think briefly about one potential benefit of the ban: the revitalization of lower Greenmont. For the sake of conversation, let’s describe lower Greenmont as everything between Cobun Avenue and Deckers Creek, not because that is necessarily the proper definition, but because those are the blocks closest to Brockway Avenue, and a Brockway without as much heavy trucking is a very different Brockway indeed.
We can start with the relative inaccessibility of the businesses located along Brockway. There were once businesses on either side of the road, and that isn’t a reference to fifty years ago. Within the last decade, there was a hot-dog stand, a plumbing business, a home decor place, and others. They’re gone or leaving. But a new laundromat is going in, the mechanic’s shop reopened, and the New Day Bakery still thrives. It’s a place with potential.
What if the trucks weren’t rolling through? What if there was slightly less traffic, and slightly less of the noise that comes along with the trucks? No neighborhood is more primed for a serious gentrification than Greenmont. It is within walking distance of downtown, its homes are affordable enough, and in the case of anything between Brockway and Deckers Creek, they’re significantly less expensive than they are elsewhere in South Park. It isn’t difficult to imagine that a small change in the city’s traffic patterns could mean big things for that area.
And people are moving to town. Some of them will want easy access to downtown and the university beyond it. Some of them won’t want the housing associations that come along with the thirty-seven gajillion housing developments ringing the city. And they won’t be students. Students are already in parts of Greenmont but not in the cancerous way that they’ve overtaken lower Wiles Hill, all of University Hill, and significant portions of Woodburn. There’s something about the neighborhoods there that have minimized the number of move-in.
Put those two factors together and combine it with something like a ban on big trucking and suddenly, buying cheap fixer-upper homes throughout Greenmont, and especially anything near Brockway, might suddenly become a much more appealing proposition. The potential is there. It just needs a push.
Of course, a ban on trucking might do nothing, save reduce the noise and the wear-and-tear on existing infrastructure. That wouldn’t be the worst result in the world. But if there is a chance for a significant revitalization of neighborhoods closest to town - if there is a real change for the sort of change that might not make old-timers clench their dentures - maybe taking the leap is worth it.
We now have exactly 300 Tumblr followers and 800 Twitter followers. This is extremely unexpected given what we started with, which was zero, in both cases, although we should probably note that everybody starts with zero.
Anyway, thanks for reading, liking, and sharing. That’s very nice of all of you. Except you Steve. Ugh.
Here’s the thing about Safe Streets Morgantown's (SSM) proposal to regulate heavy truck traffic downtown: it is exceptionally clever. Rather than attack the problem throughout the city, SSM attempts to regulate downtown truck traffic. This has the (very) welcome side-effect of encouraging trucks to use the Greenbag Road instead. But perhaps that’s too much too soon. Let’s start at the beginning.
Anybody who has ever been on Brockway Avenue knows about the scourge of heavy trucks coming through. Between the damage to the road, the intense and prolonged amount of sound the trucks produce, and the degradation to the surrounding neighborhoods (both Marilla and Greenmont), the reality is that the city almost certainly isn’t benefiting from their presence. Neither are homeowners. Neither are taxpayers. Neither are neighborhoods. But SSM doesn’t propose to deal with any of this.
Instead, SSM attacks the heavy truck presence downtown, and specifically, on Walnut Street. By preventing their presence there - something that the group’s organizer feels the law specifically allows - there is no reason for those trucks to come all the way through Sabraton, nor to use the hogback turn in Marilla, nor to then rumble up Brockway through Greenmont.
By doing right by the city’s downtown, two of the city’s most maligned neighborhoods potentially benefit. Without the heavy truck traffic coming through at what literally seems to be all hours of the day, those neighborhoods have the opportunity to breath and, potentially, to regroup.
Will there be objections to this proposal? Yes, of course, and they’ll come from two sides. The first will be from the heavy industries that currently abuse the city’s neighborhoods. They’ll claim that any attempt to prevent their trucks from rumbling through is tantamount to the jackbooted thuggery of an out of control government. These though are the cranky claims of John Raese types, people who genuinely believe that the world exists only to benefit certain very entrenched interests.
The second set will come from people like Twitter’s bitmapped. He’s somebody that you should already be following if you care about anything local, but his objections are very good. He argues that if the city wants to regulate the traffic, it should absorb the road and pay for its maintenance. He argues that the agency that pays for maintenance gets to say who drives the road. It’s tough to formulate an argument against this position. But, if the law says what SSM claims it does, the logic of @bitmapped’s position might not matter.
There’s a City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 24. It’s what’s known as a Committee of the Whole meeting. It’s where SSM will first be rolling out its proposal. There will be a public comment section. This is something that will also be discussed in future meetings. Needless to say, the potential exists for a protracted fight between our changing community and longstanding entrenched interests. We’ll continue to write about this story as it unfolds.