Doing the right thing

Published 6:17 pm Sunday, August 12, 2007

By Staff
Concern over the future of the bridge that connects Washington and Washington Park and what that future holds for Havens Gardens and adjacent boat ramps and businesses at Runyon Creek continues to grow.
Among those concerned about the issue is the City of Washington.
At its meeting Monday, the City Council is expected to adopt a resolution regarding the preservation and improvement of Havens Gardens. That proposed resolution, as it appears in the council’s agenda book, states that the city and council “implore the NCDOT to collaborate with the City in the location and design of the new Runyon Creek bridge and make the top priority of the design process the preservation and improvement of” Havens Gardens, the boat ramps and adjacent businesses.
The proposed resolution also reads the city “most earnestly desires to protect these most precious recreational facilities, as well as the successful businesses adjoining them.”
Sounds as if the city, except for replacing the existing bridge, is saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
That’s what the city, not to mention Washington Park, should be saying.
Havens Gardens, the boat ramps and the adjacent businesses are used and enjoyed by all segments of the city’s population. And there’s no doubt replacing the bridge has potential for significantly affecting Havens Gardens, the boat ramps and adjacent businesses. There are many people who fear relocating the bridge as part of the effort to replace it will do more harm than good when it comes to Havens Gardens and surrounding environs.
Would relocating the bridge make it more convenient for some people who travel to and from Washington Park and Washington or who can’t get their boats under bridge to reach the Pamlico River? That’s likely. But what would be convenience for some likely could be devastating to others.
Havens Gardens is a community gathering place. It’s been that way since it first appeared. Whatever changes may occur at Havens Gardens should benefit as many people as possible, not just to appease a few folks. Havens Gardens is a prime example of public access to the Pamlico River. Doing something that decreases that access probably isn’t the right thing to do.
Havens Gardens wouldn’t be Havens Gardens if any changes made there result in a fewer number of people sitting on the bank of the river with cane poles in their hands. That image is about as close to being a Norman Rockwell image without it actually being a Rockwell painting.
There is no doubt some improvements are needed at Havens Gardens. Better and more picnic shelters are needed. The west end of Havens Gardens, under utilized most of the time, could be better put to use. Reconfiguring Havens Gardens — to a small degree — to make better use of the space there also should be considered.
When the City Council votes on this proposed resolution Monday, it should be a unanimous vote to adopt the resolution.
There’s little question the bridge needs to be replaced, but don’t make changing Havens Gardens part of the replacement scenario.
Area residents, especially those who have enjoyed and should continue to enjoy Havens Gardens, don’t need a bridge over troubled waters. And that’s what those waters would become if a new bridge causes more problems that it solves.
The new bridge, if built, should unite people, not divide them.
And if replacing the existing bridge means building a new bridge in a location that results in harm to Havens Gardens, the City Council should oppose such a move.
Adopting this resolution is the right thing to do.