My Turn: Prevent a mistake by the lake
Published: Thursday, February 28, 2008 Burlington Free Press
By Hal Cochran
Three years ago, Burlington voters told our politicians we didn't want the YMCA housed in the Moran plant. Two years ago, we told them to tear it down. Eighty-six percent of the voters wanted a park on the site.
The politicians evidently don't care what we think. This time around, they want to spend $7.4 million of our money -- just for starters -- to turn the Moran Monstrosity into an amusement park for tourists, with yet another restaurant, yet another parking garage, more and wider roads, and traffic jams. What do we get out of this, besides the bill? Some low-wage service jobs, most of which will be filled by college students? If an entrepreneur wants to put an ice-climbing wall and a restaurant and a parking garage anywhere else in Burlington, fine, but please, not on the shore of Lake Champlain.
Burlington's lakefront is fundamentally different from all other property in the city. It is our most beautiful, desirable, and valuable asset. By law, the parcel the Moran plant sits on is held in trust for the benefit of the public, not for the benefit of tourists, hotels, restaurants, retail shops, or Scottish corporations. Until a higher and better public use is found for it, the land should be returned to and preserved in its natural state.
The Moran plant is irredeemably ugly and should be razed to the ground. The site should not be developed but undeveloped to create a four-season public park with unobstructed lake views. There could be lawns, gardens, trees, picnic tables, a playground, paths that would serve as cross-country ski trails in winter, and a children's wading pool that would convert to an outdoor ice skating rink. A year-round, city-owned concession stand could serve users of both the park and the adjacent bike path. There would be no roads, vehicle traffic, or parking lots, since the free College Street shuttle could turn around at the park entrance. We could call it People's Park. In the name of progress and economic development, the politicians want to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot."
Thanks to the people who petitioned Issue 2 onto the March 4 ballot, we have the opportunity to send the mayor and council a clear and unambiguous message. Please vote no on Issue 1 and yes on Issue 2.
Hal Cochran lives in Burlington.
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