I’m a dreamer. Imagine a town built around the healing arts, a town which fosters rest, relaxation, renewal and rejuvenation, all in a peaceful, quiet atmosphere. This is what we have in Eureka Springs. In these times of turmoil and constant noise, we are an oasis.
Now let’s imagine an area of town where there were no cars, no extraneous noise, no fighting for a place on the sidewalks because you could walk in the street with plenty of room for wheelchairs and baby carriages. Maybe there would be a violinist standing alongside the large walkways, adding to the ambience of an already-perfect shopping experience. Oh, look over there! In the park there’s a play being performed by local youth, and people are resting their feet while enjoying hearing every word of the performance as they sip beverages.
Many cities have experimented with pedestrian-only shopping areas, and we are able to see the long-term results of these trials. For information on this, look up “car-free places” on Wikipedia. This is not a fluke, and in this time of dwindling resources, our ideas about such things are changing rapidly. Progressive thought has always been prevalent in Eureka, and we are not backing up in this area – thank goodness!
I would love to see a long-term plan for creating a pedestrian-only area in our historic downtown. If we announced tomorrow that this would be happening in two years, if we began to make plans on how to facilitate this change, if we made a marketing plan to promote the benefits for tourists, I believe we would have the media scrambling to cover this story and the marketing would kick-start itself.
Unfortunately, I do not think that a one-day trial of closing a street will provide any indication of the success this total change would have. A day or weekend of blocking traffic and bringing in vendors may not show us how a major change would affect our sales tax revenue. This is an emotional issue and it’s tempting to lash out at others in defense of ourselves, but let’s not.
Can we find out common ground here? Don’t we all want what is best for everyone, and might that not be something we have yet to discover? Let’s listen for understanding here, not reaction. It’s frightening to go into the slow season in Eureka Springs without enough cash to pay your rent until spring. Let’s not forget we’re all in this together.