June 28, 2008
Since the election, and really for months before, decision making regarding a potential restaurant and event site on Mill Mountain has slowed considerably. Certainly, this was and is a hot issue for our city and one in which several candidates in the recent election certainly took some sides. In my mind, this has been a very healthy debate. There have been meetings, printed commentary and letters to the editor, forums and the dialogue on both sides has been mostly civil.
We can quickly approve fire stations, police academies and civic event centers that cost millionns with little fanfare, but it is the sexy, feel good, fun projects with potential economic and tourism benefits that often get the most attention. There are many understandable reasons for this- we can all envision them, we can all use them, and perhaps they are “extras” that will change our landscape and something we “may not need”, or these issues offer many options of how to get it done and therefore there are many opinions. The market building, the stepped plaza, the amphitheatre all fit this category. The mountain though does offer some differences. Second to perhaps our downtown market area, it is our greatest asset and I believe it is quickly followed in third place by our river. The city is correctly expanding the use of these natural amenities with greenways, hiking and biking trails and ways to link them together which are getting regional and national media exposure. People take visitors to the mountain, enjoy weekend picnics or gatherings there, or have weddings on the star overlook (turn the starcam on now).
There is also history here: an old inn and theatre was once there, the Mill Mountain Zoo still operates there and offers great family entertainment in an awesome setting. Those who grew up here have fond childhood memories of the mountain. The Discovery Center has become a great addition and offers another place to visit and learn about our local environment and nature and hopefully entices visitors to come on into the city. Parking is spread out with perhaps too much asphalt but it is often full on weekends.
So do we leave well enough alone? For as long as I can remember, about every 7 or so years I have heard people and groups make a major effort to discuss the possibilities of having a restaurant on the mountain- a place to take friends, sit, enjoy the view, listen to accoustic music, have breakfast/coffee, have events/meetings/weddings, or just take a rest from a hike or bike ride. If done right- evironmentally friendly, small footprint, cool wood and stone architecture, LEED design, consolidate parking and lose some asphalt- it would certainly at first glance make sense to me and a lot of people for that matter. Valley Forward has put together a solid proposal and has been very reasoned in my mind in its approach to this debate. The respondents- the Keep Mill Mountain Green and Natural Read more