Saturday, December 04, 2004

Ohio River Greenway and Mike Sodrel's motorized transport fetishes

Previously reader Brandon Smith provided the URL for the Ohio River Greenway (and another link below). The Greenway's web site describes the project thusly:

“The Greenway will create a park like setting along the banks of the Ohio River connecting three municipalities: New Albany, Clarksville, and Jeffersonville. The project area is approximately seven miles in length and includes land access to the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife and Conservation Area.”

The Greenway is one component in an evolving series of redevelopment efforts on both banks of the Ohio River.

The conversion of Louisville’s formerly decrepit waterfront into landscaped parkland is the most obvious symbol of the welcomed trend toward reconnecting the Falls Cities with the river. So is the River Walk path from downtown Louisville to the city’s west end.

On the Indiana side, Jeffersonville’s decade-old “restaurant row” and the nearby Falls of the Ohio State Park in Clarksville are two prominent examples of the same phenomenon.

While it should come as no surprise to anyone born and raised here that New Albany has lagged behind the other Falls Cities with respect to its riverfront, it remains that the amphitheater (known locally as the Trinkle Dome) and adjoining open space is aesthetically pleasant and ripe with potential.

As described above, the Greenway is slated to connect Jeffersonville’s “restaurant row” and Clarksville’s state park with New Albany’s Trinkle Dome. As such, it would pass through what may be the best-kept secret in metropolitan Louisville, the Loop Island Wetlands.

Where Silver Creek empties into the Ohio, nature has reclaimed approximately fifty historically significant acres upon which corn was grown a mere half-century ago. Al Goodman, an environmental engineer, owns the wetlands as well as the nearby site of the old city dump, and also the Moser Tannery property. If his ambitious plans for these sites come to fruition, yet another recreational option would be developed astride the Greenway’s path.

Certainly the notion of a Greenway, or something broadly similar to it, has existed in the public domain for many years.

However, it’s been only a decade or so ago since the idea moved from the realm of idle conjecture into a position of possibility, with longtime 9th District Congressman Lee Hamilton procuring federal money for feasibility studies and a commission composed of local politicos coming together to collectively dip toes into the swirling waters.

Hamilton’s long congressional tenure eventually gave way to that of fellow Democrat Baron Hill, Seymour High School’s basketball immortal turned public servant. Given his commitment to the Greenway project, it is appropriate that Hill’s photo is one of six that appears on the slide show on the main page of the Greenway web site.

The photo of Hill is one of six that rotates during the slide show. Another shows a majestic view of downtown Louisville from the superior vantage point of the Sunny Side.

Unfortunately, two additional photos provide self-serving glances at the movershaker bureaucrats at Greenway committee meetings, and one photo each shows Regina Overton and Tom Galligan, ex-mayors of New Albany and Jeffersonville, respectively.

Marketing advice, anyone?

Unfortunately, Baron Hill is about to join the ranks of “former” office holders whose faces rather bizarrely continue to adorn the Greenway web site. Barring a recount miracle, he has been narrowly defeated for re-election by Republican Mike Sodrel, whose fealty to all things Bush dominated a thoroughly annoying campaign season.

During a debate preceding the election, candidate Sodrel managed to bring the Greenway back into public view by means of an offhanded comment to the effect that the Greenway is a “feel-good project” that will not create jobs, adding that the money would be better spent on two controversial Ohio River bridges for auto traffic, which if ever actually started, much less completed, will have taken far longer to build than the pyramids of ancient Egypt.

Given that one feature of the $40 million Greenway is a two-lane, strictly speed-controlled park road not intended for through traffic, i.e., something that will be of little use to the self-proclaimed trucking magnate Sodrel, whose multi-wheeled business acumen somehow qualifies him to receive millions in cynical out-of-state contributions for his vapid campaigns …

I digress, but at any rate Sodrel’s off-the-cuff statement angered the local politicians who previously defeated those predecessors still pictured on the outdated Greenway web site.

The new mayors on the block drafted a nasty letter to Sodrel in lieu of egging his company’s building, which is difficult to do without being seen because it stands in full view of the teeming interstate highway.

They let it be known to Sodrel that the Greenway project is indeed important, and Sodrel’s camp quickly issued the usual “comments taken out of context” nonsense, and there we stand, at least for now. New Albany’s Mayor James Garner has included some of the required Greenway improvements in his funding package for Scribner Place, and overall, it is expected that work will soon begin on the Greenway, perhaps to be completed five years from now.

Mike Sodrel’s characteristic “business as usual” harrumph deserves to be placed within the context of those theories of economic growth and well being that to not have as a necessary corollary the ever- faster multiplication of businesses like Sodrel’s trucking firm.

Rather, using Richard Florida’s “creativity index” theory as a starting point, it’s easy to see that the conversion of formerly factory, warehouse and scrap-yard properties into recreational parkland is part of the quality-of-life and diversification process that makes communities more livable and attracts economic growth dependent on creativity.

To dismiss this process as economically invalid because it does not immediately create a 9 – to – 5 job in the sense of Sodrel’s own bricks-and-mortar trucking business is nothing less than doltish, and an unpleasant harbinger of the sort of empty-suited “thinking” that portends from his elevation to Congress.

Let’s hope that his advisors, some of whom have shown more sense in their previous working lives, really do have Sodrel’s ear when it comes to the Greenway.


Plans for the Ohio River Greenway from Jeff to New Albany unveiled:

Loop Island Wetlands:

Ohio River Greenway’s home page:

Falls of the Ohio State Park:

1 comment:

Brandon W. Smith said...

Thanks for bringing us up to speed! It pains me that Sodrel made such a statement...he obviously has no clue. Glad to see some local political action gave him one. We need to keep tabs on this to make sure it gets completed appropriately.