Phoenix Park just a taste of what’s to come

Published 12:46 am Sunday, May 17, 2009

If you’ve read The Selma Times-Journal lately, you know that the Selma Dallas Historic Preservation Society has offered to put a park on Water Avenue across from the St. James Hotel in a vacant lot owned by the city. This sounds like a good idea. After all, if I stayed in one of those rooms in the St. James, overlooking Water Avenue, I’d rather see a park than a vacant lot and some abandoned buildings. A nice park might entice someone to spend a little time in Selma — just a little longer.

A park there might also encourage us to think more about green spaces and how they make our life just a little better. Green spaces lift. They provide places to rest and recover. They please the eye.

But, like all good projects, the park has run into some barriers. The society wants a seven-year run with its project. Some people say that’s too long. Well, considering the pace of getting things done in Selma, the park might be just the thing.

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Before anybody raises their hackles: Many projects in Selma depend on federal grants. Those grants must be applied for and undergo scrutiny and compete with umpteen other cities and towns that want the same grant. There are no guarantees. That’s reason No. 1 for the slow-moving process.

Reason No. 2 rests in the fact that the government is unwieldy, even on the local level sometimes. Projects must be drawn up. Plans must be submitted to the proper authorities — state, federal — who take their time crossing i’s and dotting t’s and sending the drawings back for several revisions. The bureaucratic tangle frustrates and complicates, but it’s somebody’s reason for being — somebody’s job. So the local entity waits and waits and waits some more.

Then comes approval and the project returns back to local government, which then has to award a bid for the work. There’s the advertising; the collecting of bids; the vetting of the bidders and finally the awarding of bids.

Whew. And the first shovel of dirt hasn’t turned yet.

For us impatient types, the offer of the society to put this park in place seems like the most efficient and quickest way to get the job done. Sure, Phoenix Park does not fit into the master plan. Why should it? Let’s allow the society to build the park and enjoy some green space while the other river front project unfolds. Look at this this way: Phoenix Park is just a taste of what’s to come. So, whet our appetites.