It seems that the struggle for civil rights in America is a part of the evolution of our experiment in democracy. First, it was the reversal of constitutionally supported slavery and the 100 years it took to achieve true equality through public education and voting rights; second, it was followed by women’s suffrage; then came laws to protect child labor, those with disabilities and people who were denied equal rights that others enjoyed. All of this is our heritage, of which each American can be quite proud.
All of this is well and good; but what about a child’s right to safely access his or her community amenities like schools, parks, open spaces and trails, and local lakes and streams? Several states have passed resolutions that state an “Outdoor Bill of Rights” for children. Over 1,000 people and organizations signed a petition that supports this idea; and they are still coming in the mail. Perhaps it is time has come for a successful outcome in our General Assembly this year.
Frankfort is becoming a “people-friendly” community on several fronts. Walk/Bike Frankfort’s trail plan has been published and several trails already host numerous hikers and bikers; the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism Riverfront Development Committee has been busy implementing portions of its plan with its trail connecting downtown with Buffalo Trace, the newly completed Ward Oates amphitheater, the highly successful tour boat on the Kentucky River, free rides on the trolley connecting downtown attractions, an updated master plan for Capitol View Park and its system of nationally recognized trails; new bicycle trails along downtown streets, additions to Cove Spring Park and the family outdoor club programs offered through Parks and Recreation, similar improvements at Fort Hill, and other examples bear this out.
This pattern is growing. However, it needs to be coupled with efforts to make Frankfort a more business-friendly community by nurturing existing firms, establishing public procurement policy that favors local ones, creating low-cost ways to increase traffic in downtown shops with diagonal parking and parking enforcement, a downtown system of kiosks for the obvious increase in pedestrians wanting to find specialty shops, and fostering a culture that frequently celebrates contributions of small businesses to our community’s health.
Many of these successes were a direct result of extended study; however, a few, like the amphitheater, trolley, tour boat and bike lanes, were serendipity and pilots to test their efficacy in achieving a healthier economy and more vibrant community for visitors and residents alike.
Now the conversation once more addresses the downtown parking issue. This one has been studied to death, literally! A group of businesses circulated a petition for a pilot diagonal parking project several years ago to no avail. Now with attention being given to rehabbing the St. Clair Street garage as a public project, the conversation continues.
It is not an either-or issue; with increasing needs for parking being generated quite frequently, both options are or soon will be needed to maintain safety AND a business-friendly way to enhance traffic in our shops and attractions like the Grand, the History Center, a growing cluster of arts facilities, enhanced activities hosted by our historic assets, etc.
Pilot diagonal sites have been mentioned before: Lewis Street near Broadway, Wilkinson Street at Main and Bridge Street at Second to handle the pressures of City Hall, the Plant Board and commercial offices and businesses near these intersections.
I am among those who feel that downtown businesses and attractions are worth saving, that there is safe room for bike trails and diagonal parking at the above areas, and that several spray paint cans are an inexpensive way to increase parking, especially compared to the garage approach alone.
By moving on at least one of the above locations for a pilot project, Frankfort can test the efficacy of adding diagonal parking to their economic development and a people-friendly/business-friendly downtown. Isn’t it time to move ahead on this one? It’s time for a one or two-year test has come!
Ed Councill has served as chairman of the Small Business Development Committee co-hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Kentucky State University, created a non-profit to foster implementing its findings, sits on the Frankfort Riverfront Development Committee, is a member of Walk/Bike Frankfort, was appointed to the Second Street Form-Based Code Task Force, and is the retired co-owner and founder of Canoe Kentucky.