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Investing in our Economic Spirit

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Visible but quiet achievements in Sandpoint

    The recent terrorist attacks have brought our country unfathomable grief.  Each day we struggle to truly comprehend all of the ramifications of being attacked.  The mental offset to our pain, anguish and anger is the equally unparalleled giving, emotional outpouring and camaraderie our country has displayed.  I believe most people want to be generous in spirit all the time, but regrettably it sometimes requires an unimaginable event to capture our hope and determination.

    One principle element of the multifaceted recovery operation now underway is stabilizing the economy.  All across the nation thousands of people are giving as they can to the victims in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Regionally, cities and towns are looking inward to determine how to keep their respective local economies buffered from the national reverberation of job layoffs and slumping sales projections. The economic message from the White House is clear – Invest in America.  Do not stop growing the economy in deference to your fellow citizens.  Participate.

    But to be willing to invest in one’s local economic community is as much a mental challenge as a financial one. It requires that we all exercise those same slumbering emotions of hope and determination. Our national solution appears to be a unified commitment to quell our criticism, our cynicism and our impatience.  Can we apply our national fortitude to our local needs?

    In Sandpoint some visible but quiet achievements have been occurring.  In two weeks the community will again be asked for valued and critically important input to future design ideas for downtown Sandpoint.  Tom Hudson, a specialist in downtown revitalization, community-based strategic planning and rural economic development, recently made a presentation to the Sandpoint City Council which highlighted some ideas and small capital investments our community can make to continue making Sandpoint a fantastic place to live and visit.  The information was upbeat, and while no one, from the outside consultant to the inside planner can wipe out our obstacles, the planning and small successes represent the investment of spirit Sandpoint requires to reach its full potential.  The Hudson Company is communicating quantifiable data to measure our citizens’ ideas and requirements using engineers, architects, traffic analysts, and most importantly access to the mistakes and successes of other cities’ similar endeavors.

    On October 11th at the Sandpoint Hawthorne Inn and Suite, Hudson, in conjunction with the City and the SBA, will present various scenarios for the design of downtown traffic flow and parking.

    He will be highlighting much of the study work completed by the SBA and the relationship between traffic flow and the number of new parking spots these scenarios create.  Of three possible scenarios, between 100-300 new parking spots could be created.  The trade-offs between plans require public input, massaging and endorsement before progressing.  This meeting takes the very clear message the SBA received two years ago, in the very successful open house held at the City Forum, to the next level.  At that meeting, our citizens wanted focus on three areas:  parking, traffic and landscaping.

    In his presentation, one poignant observation Hudson made was upon completion of the By-Way, the yearly increase in traffic Sandpoint is projected to experience will ultimately exceed our current traffic flowing through town, even after factoring in the reduction brought by the By-Way.  He pointed out the value of a town having a physical heart or central town square, which is currently provided by Farmin Park.  Hudson suggested enlarging that concept by utilizing the downtown parking lot with some modifications for town events and athletic activities.  He pointed out how envious other small towns are for the location and visibility that Cold Water Creek provides us, something that is easily overlooked.  He reviewed the necessity for a pedestrian core in the downtown blocks and more accessibility in and out on Main Street. 

    In other positive developments, the City recently purchased the area on Main, Oak and 3rd street known as the “Bull Pen” and the adjacent vacant lot, creating about 20 new parking spots.  It is slated for leveling and paving shortly.  The City also created eight new parking spots on Church Street and six more spots in the parking lot behind Gunnings Alley.  Hudson noted that the new parking on Church Street resulted in slowing the speed of traffic.  Both Second Avenue and Oak Street have been repaved.  The City Council, by resolution, passed a standard design for ramps to be build to the Sand Creek Walkway.  The Walkway itself was a successful project developed with the assistance of the SBA.

    One hope I have in the plan for improved parking and traffic flow is the incorporation of bike paths on our City streets.  I have no idea if it is feasible, but it seems that if the parking spaces are not set too close to the curb, whether diagonal or parallel, a reasonably narrow lane could be developed to allow bikers to motor along more safely.

    All of these activities are modest, but nonetheless amount to progress if your mental attitude extends any generosity of spirit.  This positive attitude can also be achieved by expecting so very little that virtually any capital improvement is cause for celebration and astonishment.

When people are more informed about the design and decision making process of a project, they feel more empowered.  The more empowered you are, the more ownership you take.  The more ownership you take, the closer you come to understanding the value and strength that comes from feeling part of a community.  When you are part of a community, then you can relate better to people outside your community.  Feeling good about each of our small contributions to a greater campaign can help us begin to digest the incomprehensible destruction of our Country’s symbols but not our Country’s communities.  It starts with our spirit.  See you on the 11th.

Carol Curtis is an active member of community improvement projects and is a co-owner of Sandpoint Computers, Inc.

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Carol Curtis

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