No More Seas Of Asphalt

Published 5:27 pm Thursday, September 1, 2011

Editor, The Herald:

Farmville's plan to adapt part of the abandoned structure along North Street for a permanent farmers' market was exciting. This seemed a wonderful way not only to support local growers and the customers who appreciate their produce but also to contribute to the renewal of downtown Farmville through an imaginative adaptive reuse. But the evolution of the plan has been partly disappointing. The remodeled structure itself is a nice reminder of old Farmville, looks well suited to its new purpose, and will, I hope, meet the vendors' needs. However, the sea of asphalt that spreads out around it is both utterly uninviting to potential shoppers and environmentally destructive.

How nice it would have been to have a farmers' market with a parking lot designed for more than maximizing space for vehicles, a lot that included, for example, environmentally sensitive surfaces and even attractive paving along the lines of the brickwork that's going in on Main Street sidewalks. How nice it would have been-and complementary of a farmers' market use-to have a parking area with room for varied and flourishing planting, perhaps providing shade for parked vehicles as well as a bike rack and a shaded rest area for users of the adjacent trail. What we have instead is nearly wall-to-wall asphalt with small islands for vegetation that will do nothing but struggle until someone decides to replace it. Town horticulturalist David Fowlkes does wonders with planting, but he hasn't been left much to work with at this new lot.

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The timing of the paving installation is ironic. Just a few days after it was completed, The Herald published the results of a survey suggesting that lack of parking space may be a perceived but not a real problem (at least for now) in downtown Farmville. The survey also clearly showed that residents would like to see more green spaces in downtown.

Town leaders deserve credit for making the new farmer's market a reality. But I hope that in the future when exciting prospects for downtown enhancements are planned, they will actively seek citizen input. I, for one, will speak for downtown revitalization that encourages people first to come to downtown and then to linger because the surroundings are inviting. The downtown renewal team already in place is a good start. Maybe in the future we'll avoid lost opportunities on the scale of the “Farmers' Market and Municipal Parking Lot.” All this said, I look forward to stopping by the farmers' market in its new home as soon as it moves in.

Robin Sedgwick