by Justin Otto
I can’t help but wonder exactly what the people of Pensacola were thinking when they voted FOR the yet to be constructed monstrosity otherwise known as the Pensacola Maritime Park, which finally broke ground on Sept. 17.
Rest assured, this park will end up being a grand affirmation that Pensacola isn’t just another city with terrible water, air and road quality problems, but one that also boasts a dying economy desperate for rescue.
When the idea for the park was initially put forth, Pensacola was a different city. Keep in mind, the park was proposed and voted on back in 2005, during the wake of Hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, which brought in several transplants from out of town, some looking for work and others just for refuge. This was also before the national and local economies were in a severe downturn.
Those campaigning in favor of the park adopted the slogan, “The Right Idea, The Right Time” – but this unfortunately isn’t 2005 and the right time has passed.
With a budget of $40 million and an expected construction cost of $38 million, what we are getting is essentially a glorified strip mall that will likely remain mostly empty, much like many of the commercial properties in this town that already exist and could house any number of businesses if said buildings didn’t have the unfortunate stigma of not being ‘Downtown,’ which these days, equates to hip.
To go along with the strip mall, the park will also house a baseball field for our local team, the Pensacola Pelicans, who have been an established baseball team here since 2002. But does anyone really have an interest in local baseball? I personally could count on zero hands the amount of times that I or anyone I know has been to one of their games.
Similarly, Hank Aaron Stadium in Mobile, Ala. was constructed in 1997 and has seen a steady decline in attendance numbers since its opening day.
City planning officials also seem to have overlooked that baseball is a summertime sport, and in our region it rains almost every day during the summer, which is not exactly conducive to a good game or a good time.
I submit that rather than building this pointless Maritime Park, city officials should have focused on ideas for actually improving the quality of life for Pensacolians.
For instance, riding a bike in Pensacola is an absolute nightmare due to the lack of bike lanes, and merely driving your car can ensure a trip to the chiropractor for a lumbar adjustment after the severe trouncing from the 8.2 billion potholes that so elegantly grace our roads like lily pads on a filthy pond (by the way, that filthy pond is without a doubt cleaner than our bays, bayous and waterways).
Initiatives such as safer and more plentiful bike lanes could be implemented and would not only ease traffic congestion, but also reduce the amount of emissions in the county.
And Pensacola is severely behind the times when it comes to “green” oriented infrastructure planning and pollution management.
How about employing ideas that could improve the water and air quality? Runoff from chemical fertilizers and industrial plants permeate our waters to such an extent that local fish are next to inedible. Finances delegated to the construction of the park could have provided incentives for citizens to switch to organic fertilizers in place of their chemical counterparts.
Rather than making sound decisions and working on issues that actually effect the citizens of Pensacola directly (and I mean all of them, not just the Downtown movers and shakers) like road improvement and water quality management, we will get a park that I would venture no more than thirty percent of us will ever go to, half full of boutique stores that seventy-five percent of us can’t afford.
We live in a city that operates as though we still have a mainly tourist-based economy, essentially likening Pensacola to a poor man’s Destin. And until this kind of thinking changes, the vacuous water-heads in charge will keep making terrible economic decisions as long as they are in office – which if things go the way I think they will after the Maritime Park’s completion, won’t be long.
At least I hope not, because I am rather fond of swimming…