Now that Columbia County voters have approved raising their taxes to pay back $43 million in bond funding for county improvements, and now that the money will soon be available, commissioners are ready to get cracking on the list of projects voters OK'd.
On many of those projects, there's a definite need for speed - especially the drainage and stream-repair programs. But for one project, there should be no hurry at all.
It's the Evans Town Center Park project. To paraphrase the doctor's oath to "do no harm," the best medicine there is the least.
We've been down this road before, when commissioners paid a park architect to draw a fanciful vision of what an urban park on the 19-acre Evans field could be. The pie-in-the-sky plan included a tree-lined boulevard, three separate open-play areas, a playground, a fountain, restrooms, parking and a pavilion.
What that plan lacks is community support. When commissioners held a forum to show off the gussied-up park vision, the near-universal response was that less is more.
Does the field need to be smoothed out? Yes. It's full of hills, valleys and ruts that make it tough to stage large-scale events there. A simple grading would take care of that. Bathrooms? Absolutely. A combination restroom/concession facility similar to the new one at the amphitheater would be nice. Better electrical access? That sure would help with large events, from concerts to festivals.
But it sure seems that all the rest of the ideas are too much frou-frou. Nix the tree-lined boulevard; the beauty of the field is its open, unencumbered scale. Skip the playground; there's already a new one across the street. Parking? The bare lawn is fine for occasional use.
Just sticking with the basics would improve an amazing park right in the middle of the town's center, while preserving the unpretentious character of the rare open space. It would be much cheaper, too.
Commissioners demonstrated courage and vision in acquiring the prime real estate for use as a park, and then in convincing voters to pay for it. They should now show restraint by not rushing to "improve" it.
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