Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Public And Semi-public Spaces

Since my last post, I have been trying to be cognizant of how we also maintain our private open spaces as well as the public space I spoke of earlier.  This would be the sidewalk cafe type spaces that our downtown restaurants are allowed to use in order to bring vitality and vibrancy to the streets of Lexington.  Some are the patios around the campus area and some are the tables and chair along the newly widened sidewalks downtown.
The front porch dining and drinking areas near campus are all on private property but the mess that can be left behind from a good nights partying has to go somewhere.  I believe that most of the establishments really try to patrol after themselves on the big nights but when it is just a small crowd and the litter is miniscule, I know that there can be lapses.  I watched as the patio at the "World Famous" Two Keys has being hosed down the other day and as the water rolled off on to the sidewalk, it carried a fair amount of cigarette butts into the new rain garden facility, joining some that were already there.  

I know that the sidewalk abutting a property is the responsibility of the property owner, as pertains to repair and snow removal.  Some of them actually do such repair and clearing. Just who is supposed to maintain the rain gardens and keep them clear of debris is unknown to me.  I do think that the adjacent property owners should not be helping to pollute things further.

The sidewalk cafes add just the right touch to our downtown dining atmosphere and the addition of some mature shade trees would help even more.  It is a shame that we have been either selecting the wrong species or damaging the ones that are installed, but we have switched out trees on Main St. at least three times since 1972.  Our downtown trees never get to the nice shady size which is good for sitting out under.  Most diners need their shade.

The shade comes in the form of table umbrellas, but what is good for the diners is not always good for the pedestrians passing by.  I need to duck or tilt my head whenever I (6'4") pass by these areas, although Mrs Sweeper (at 5'3") walks by unimpeded. The tips of those stays would poke me right in the eye.

The restaurant servers who work these tables are pretty conscientious about keeping the area clean but the the bar areas can get quite messy.  It may be the alcohol or the age/mindset of the patrons.  Go figure.

In general, I think that it is the total mindset of Lexingtonians that is at fault.  Have we not noticed that with the indoor smoking ban and all the outdoor "smoking stations", out sidewalks and especially the street intersections are still filled with butts and wrappers.  As I left work the other day, I saw a few ladies exiting the rear door of the circuit court house, one of them lit up, and headed over to the parking garage.  After a few quick puffs and before she could enter the elevator, she flicked a half smoked cigarette into the street.  She was walking past a receptacle for said butt at the base of the steps, but hers went into the street.  I am not sure that I could find a better example of public service and disservice in the same package.

If we really want to change our city for the better, we will need to make a major adjustment to our civic attitude.


Aaron German said...

I have been thinking about this issue myself. The practical conclusion I keep arriving at, but resist, is that I am going to have to do things that are "not my responsibility"--like pick up other people's litter.

Streetsweeper said...

Aaron, this is just the attitude that we must take. We cannot take the position that "it is not my responsibility" or that "somebody else will do it". We are not all the genteel society of the old south where we have hired hands to do the menial work.

The practical solution will always be that everyone has to take a part. If we are not part of the solution, then we are a part of the problem.

Aaron German said...

I just remembered this quote from Wendell Berry: "We must give up the notion that we are too good to do our own work and clean up our own messes. It is not acceptable for this work to be done for us by wage slavery or by enslaving nature."

I found it in a speech posted over at Bluegrass reVISIONS: