Monday, December 7, 2009

Civic Welcome

CA photo by Mark Weber
I drove over to West Memphis Friday evening, coincidentally on the same day that the CA ran an article about the new gateway of light that welcomes visitors to their fair city. I noticed first the light making a beautiful and changing space underneath the Missouri Street overpass, and then I drove past a park with an abundant, creative array of holiday lights. It's the sort of display that both the zoo and Shelby Farms charge money to see, but in West Memphis, it's simply out for civic enjoyment. The whole effect was deeply welcoming.

This civic welcome mat put out by West Memphis reminded me of the delight I felt on arriving in St. Louis for the first time in years and seeing plantings, hanging baskets, beautifully manicured parks, and public art everywhere. If a city presents itself as beautiful, well kept, and creative to both visitors and its own citizens, people are far more likely to value the city and work to maintain it as beautiful, well kept, and creative. Frederick Law Olmstead understood this when he designed parks connected to parkways that stretched through the heart of a city, tying the city to beauty and vice versa.

Memphis has beautiful bones -- a parkway system of our own, lovely parks, great potential in areas like the fairgrounds and Overton Square, and a magnificent river. Let's work on our welcome mat. Let's beautify our city with well kept civic spaces, well manicured parks, and creative public art projects that all add up to make people want to live, work, and play in Memphis.

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