A tacit approval for further disintegration

Published 3:49 pm Friday, July 29, 2016

To the Editor:

A Tar Heel I am, born and bred in the Piedmont where the rivers flow over dramatic falls and rush in furious haste to the coast. As a child, I rode in the back seat of my aunt’s Blue Plymouth for what was an interminable period on much anticipated trips to the beach. We drove through Washington on occasion. I would stand on my knees to peer out the window in wonder at the strange goings-on in the little river town. What lay before me was a vigorous place full of people moving through the day — busy, bustling, being successful and showing it.

I grew up and moved worlds away to discover other sites of serenity and heart-bursting beauty. The raw elegance and soft whisper of the tall pines of Carolina drew me back in the final trimester of my life. I chose to return not to red clay swathed, frenetic, metropolitan Raleigh, but to the remembered sweet town that snuggled up to the banks of the Pamlico River and pulsed with the rhythm of accomplishment.

I have lived here 10 years now, counting gratefully every Carolina day and the friends cultivated in my new home. Over that 10-year period of time, people still march down the Main Street as I remembered, but Washington has morphed into a very different place. I have observed with alarm, disappointment and even a little anger that the vibrant pulse and shimmering liveliness that was so obvious to me decades ago, has dried up — much like

a plant deprived of water: withered, gray and unappealing. That which I sought, anticipated and fully expected in Washington has literally vanished.

A drastic loss of sparkle and a colorless desperation has replaced the bustling, successful village I remember. Empty buildings and tattered storefronts now are the rule. Cracks gape on sidewalks and the air is filled with echoes of solitary voices reverberating in that near empty Main Street canyon. Trash occupies corners and ill-kept flowers fight with weeds for sunlight and attention. There is a seediness and a look of sadness on a street that should be vibrant and filled with active people, eager to sample the unique qualities of this river town. But, unfortunately, there isn’t much that is special about Washington’s downtown.

In City Council meetings, people quibble about whether or not to hang colorful plant baskets and usher color into what is a monochromatic landscape of crumbling facades and dirty windows. Leaders in the community and even those sitting astride the city management machinery surely must be consciously looking for reasons to undermine and slow successes that would ensure a return of prosperity. I am astounded.

It has been whispered lately that the annual Wildlife Festival held in early February in downtown Washington has been cancelled. With it goes an opportunity to entice people, showcase our local businesses and bring money into our little town. The fantastic bird carving and artisan’s competition, dog jumping, duck calling, are all showcase opportunities to bring the downtown back to its former glory. The bird-carving folk are scrambling to find a new place to welcome their economic infusion. I only hope that this is not true. If it.

is, it is a truly shortsighted action on the part of our community leaders. Our governing community is so lacking in visionary leadership that they allow the few shining examples of success to wither like the flowers on Main Street. Shame on you! You have given tacit approval to further disintegration of development and optimism in Washington!

The retort is always, “If you don’t like it, go back where you came from.” I am here to stay; I have come home. I don’t like failure and the despair that the word elicits. It’s not something to accept. The community is sitting and waiting. Commitment to great things is a contagion that needs to be passed around. Please rid your ranks of placeholders and people that work 9 to 5 and then vanish. The way you climb out of a black hole is to stop digging and start climbing.

Kay Graham