Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Bayfront to be open to pedestrians and bicyclists two Sundays in June

Update (5/26): The event will happen June 13 and June 27. Plan on coming down!

The Opportunity
. Pensacola’s most unique asset is our waterfront, particularly the downtown waterfront. The more opportunities we have to enjoy it, the more we are reminded what a great place Pensacola is.

However, we rarely have real access to our waterfront. We can zoom past it on Bayfront or Scenic. We can go to a few parks. But most of our waterfront is cordoned off for the people who can afford to own water views. Opening Bayfront to pedestrians and cyclists will provide opportunities for us to enjoy our beautiful waterfront with the added benefit of bringing people from across our community together, encouraging them to exercise and meet their fellow Pensacolians.

The Action. The city council and staff have agreed to test the idea. We are now working out the details for two trial closures, to be held on Sundays in June. If these are successful, if people demonstrate that they want this type of recreational access to the downtown waterfront, the council will consider how to make these a regular occurrence.

The plan is to block off Bayfront Parkway from Tarragona/Barracks Street to Chase Street. People will have the opportunity to walk, bike, skateboard, or rollerblade on the road. This stretch also includes two large park areas, Veterans Park and Seville Square, which may encompass related activities. Once the dates are set, I plan to provide more information.

The Cost. Of course, everything has a cost. While staff has worked to develop a plan to minimize costs, money is necessary. Especially in tough financial times, we need to limit spending on anything that goes beyond the City’s core missions. That’s why I am seeking to underwrite this with private funding.

Success will be measured not only by the attendance but also by financial contributions. Our budgets are tight. If this is to become a regular activity, we will need to be able to count on the private sector support. While the city has the physical resources (the road, the barricades), we will need the private sector’s financial resources to implement and sustain this program.

I have spoken to many who are supportive of this idea. Some, who see the benefits of this program, whether drawing people downtown to their business, making Pensacola a more attractive community, or encouraging exercise, have offered sponsorships. If you know of businesses or individuals who would be willing to contribute financially, or if you yourself would, please let me know. The cost estimate is about $1000 per Sunday. Based on the responses I've heard so far, I am confident that there is lots of support for this program, and I hope that will translate into enough funds to cover the cost.

Whether or not you are able to contribute financially, I hope you will join us for this celebration of fitness, our waterfront, and our community.