Friday, October 14, 2005

Swan Song

Luke and I are back today at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for one last day on the job before we head back to Michigan tomorrow morning. Being Saturday, we're not sure what to expect for traffic flow.

Yesterday was an unusually busy day in this classroom that has morphed into the Mississippi Business Assistance Center. Luke and I typically handle general questions while Bob and Wendell from the SBA handle detailed questions about the Small Business Administration loan documents. When it gets hectic like yesterday we all help with the SBA paperwork.

The setup here took a week to organize, and now people are finding and utilizing what we have to offer. The strange part will be leaving here and not knowing if the people we've helped will get their loan assistance.

The parking lot which was over flowing with commuter students yesterday is virtually deserted today. I noticed early on that there are no bike racks, or stops for public transportation here on campus. In fact there are no bike paths or pedestrian friendly intersections anywhere in Gautier. There is no doubt that the car is king here.

Much has been written in the local papers this week regarding the opportunities that exist for Gulf Coast communities to rebuild in a way that will make them more people friendly. In other words, recreating the compact, vibrant, walkable towns and neighborhoods that withered away, and were swallowed up by bigger, busier roads from the 1960's to present.

Now I've been an advocate of this New Urbanist philosophy for years. In fact I rallied for years when I owned a business in Leland, Michigan to attract more year-round businesses that would cater essential goods and services to the locals. The idea was to maintain a village center that would prevent unneeded trips to Traverse City, and to provide a thriving environment for Leland business owners.

Back then people weren't paying much attention, but over time I think my therory proved to be correct. Now Leland is an even weaker seasonal tourist town with high business turnover rates. Meanwhile, people from Leland many times will run in to each other at the Meijer or Target store in Traverse City 35 miles away.

With the latest spike in gas prices and the overflowing traffic patterns we've seen here in towns along the Mississippi coast, a major mindset change would be the perfect remedy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the post with the picture of the house that came from someone at a university, it is University of Southern Mississippi - just thot I would let ya know, thank you for all that you have done here on the coast God Bless you

8:56 PM  

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