From The Editors
Revisiting the Bayfront Bluffs
For anyone in the world of media, there still remains a great rush of excitement and swell of pride that comes with truly breaking a story. And perhaps this excitement and pride is amplified in today's arena, as newspapers, TV, and radio compete against the likes of blogs, podcasts, and social media platforms.
But there is also a great responsibility of cultivating a story once it has blossomed and taken root in a community.
For us, an example of that responsibility began March 5 when CIVITAS members Lisa Austin, Michael Beightol, and Stephen Sonnenberg wrote in their "Considering the City" column that "Erie's Bayfront Bluff Park has Potential." It continued April 30 in B. Toy's comic strip, "Just Toyin' Witcha" when he presented a single panel featuring the words "Beautification — Erie style" hovering above an all-too-realistic rendering of the Bluffs depicting tree stumps, bulldozers, and corporate logos with signs sprouting up in place of pedestrian walkways and gardens.
But the story actually began long before that, dating back to the City of Erie's incorporation in 1805. That narrow, 23-acre strip of land sprawling out from Cascade Street to Wallace Street remained under the ownership of the Keystone State — that is, until the Erie-Western PA Port Authority obtained it in 2002.
From there, the story of that strip of once-forgotten, once-unused, once-overgrown land becomes a complicated one. Which is why you'll find the history and status of what's quickly becoming known as "Billboard Alley" on our cover — complete with new art from B. Toy.
When we first covered the topic back in early March and then again in April, we quickly learned from the conversation these initial pieces generated that the people of Erie had questions — why is anyone who passes through the Bayfront Connector gateway to The Gem City greeted with advertisements? They also had concerns — Who actually owns this land, and who is overseeing its development? And the comments — they were plentiful. Which is why we decided to feature a fleshed-out, in-depth look at the Bluffs in this issue.
Chiefly, people lamented about a perceived lack of community input throughout the process. As Mary Birdsong notes in her feature, community input was solicited — but that was back when the process of plotting the future of that land had just begun. What is clear to us, now, is that the community remains interested and still cares about a lot of land, and these community members demand transparency and desire a seat at the decision-making table.
Also in this issue, Cory Vaillancourt's "Upfront" returns with "Another Brick From the Wall: Education. Dark Sarcasm." In it, Cory tells a tale of seven Savannah women who, house by house, plot by plot, began preserving historical landmarks throughout the city in the '50s, simply by banding together and securing the money to purchase these places themselves.
Engaged, active citizens with questions, comments, and concerns — and more importantly, the fortitude and will to not only become part of a conversation, but to change that conversation entirely.
Erie is good at losing itself in nostalgia, daydreaming for the days of yesteryear when things seemed better. But daydreaming doesn't stop the demolition and the conversion of historic relics into parking lots. And it certainly doesn't cultivate the future of strips of land brimming with great potential. Now is the time for concerned citizens to get their heads out of the clouds and onto the streets, where conversations can be made theirs, if their voices are loud enough to be heard.