5/17/2006 11:20:00 AM Editorial City park, downtown projects both needed
The City of Robinson is to be commended for moving ahead on a much-needed project - replacing the aging Shrine Shelter at the City Park.
The park has become a center for major seasonal happenings such as company picnics and community events that have long since outgrown the 50-year-old shelter. The new structure will nearly double the under-roof seating capacity and add a serving area and more paved space while still maintaining the character of the park. It will also include a covered stage area for entertainment.
The Crawford County Shrine Club has already "seeded" the project with a generous $20,000 donation, but the city will need some more help for the new shelter to become a reality. Here's hoping some local businesses, institutions and individuals with an interest in ensuring that Robinson's parks remain among the best in the region step up and participate.
With the shelter project kicking off, there's another ongoing project that we can't afford to forget - the effort to build a bandstand on the courthouse square, spearheaded by Robinson Chamber of Commerce.
It's been suggested that since the new park pavilion will include a covered entertainment stage, there's no need to go ahead with the bandstand project. But the projects are both worthy, and both needed - for very different reasons.
We've already outlined the reasons for replacing the Shrine Shelter: To make sure that the City Park stays fully functional for the wide variety of events it attracts. The new pavilion's stage area is essentially a replacement for the park's aging and little-used "bandshell" near the pool, and offers a safer and more comfortable location for the entertainment and programs featured in some of the park's regular events.
The purpose for the courthouse-square bandstand is simple, too, but clearly different: It's intended as a tool to bring, and keep, people downtown, with the goal of keeping downtown businesses' doors open and cash registers ringing.
The Chamber has already illustrated this spring - kind of by accident - what the bandstand could mean to downtown. Because of soggy conditions at the City Park, the Chamber's Easter-egg hunt - already delayed because of bad weather - was finally moved to the courthouse lawn. While the kids had fun, as always, some businesses downtown also reported increased traffic following the event.
A season of scheduled events centered at the bandstand will give both local residents and visitors more reasons to be downtown - and downtown businesses more reasons to keep their doors open a little later, or to offer some specials, or even to decide to stay in their downtown location rather than moving to a "higher-traffic" area. With the prospect of a Wal-Mart Supercenter looming on Robinson's retail horizon, anything that can help retain, and even attract, downtown businesses is well worth pursuing.
A secondary benefit of the bandstand is that improving the downtown business climate will help ensure preservation of Robinson's historical and architectural heritage. We already have one of the better-preserved downtowns in the region among communities our size, but keeping storefronts occupied and downtown businesses viable will enable owners to keep improving and restoring their historic properties.
So while the two structures may end up looking somewhat the same, remember that their purposes fit their locations. The new park shelter and its covered stage are to enhance the park's recreational value; the downtown bandstand is to enhance our downtown's commercial environment. Both are important, both are sorely needed right now, and both deserve our support.