First, thank you all for coming. It was a great hearing, and I enjoyed listening and being part of it. The Greenway Commission, conservation groups, representatives of cycling groups, and many well informed and well-intentioned citizens were all out to support the plan. And I certainly heard from those who are against it, and I will try my best to respond to some of their concerns
That’s a high level take. Please allow to me go a little further . . .
The hearing was generally respectful. Citizens were largely able to express their opinion in an orderly fashion without fear of scorn or ridicule. I might add that I pushed the officials to extend the meeting over an hour to make time for everyone. Support for the plan broke down the way I thought it might, with many (but not all) of the West River residents against it and several young families for it, in addition to support from the groups I mentioned above.
The State Parks did a very good presentation. It showed the plan and set out their justifications for it, including the very limited number of cars that use the Parkway, the low environmental impact of the plan, and the opportunities for additional recreational activities the plan will create. We will never create a plan that will make everyone happy. I should add that some of the options suggested yesterday won’t work either. For instance, we don’t have the budget to widen that service road, and the service road is not a state road. Again, this is a state project. But I think we are a step closer to creating a plan that works for most of us.
Some people raised what I saw as some very valid concerns regarding the number of parking lots in the plan. I think we can do without most of those lots, and I think we could place the ones we will need in better locations. I had one family that I am close to and lives on West River approach me beforehand. The husband looked at me and said, “I was here to show my support, but I can’t support a plan that places a parking lot in front of my house!” My heart sunk. I will try and be responsive and work with the state parks to find a better way.
Above I said that the debate was largely respectful. And it was. But towards the end, we saw tinges of the worst sorts of public discourse. That was unfortunate. I must say that I was especially disappointed by the presence of a few grasping politicians—one who acted like he never pushed for the plan himself. Say what you will about me. You know where I stand. And I say what I believe. I will never pander to to loudest special interest or dance to whatever song I think will get me a vote. And I will continue to advocate for the creation of this path. I have piles of letters and emails that compel me to do this. The citizens of Grand Island want more access to that waterfront, and they don’t want to cross a speedway to get there. I won’t flinch.
THE VERY GOOD
After the many years (underway officially since 2013) that the town has worked on this with the State Parks, we are a step closer to finally bringing it to fruition. I never said this would be easy. It will be hard, and it will require sacrifice and some heavy lifts. But let me leave you with a little quote from the famed playwright George Bernard Shaw, which I often read as a source of inspiration:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Keep smiling Grand Island. Forget the bad and the ugly. It’s all good!