Over the years I have written about a number of topics. Many are the stories of people in the area doing wonderful things for others. Some have been about local service organizations or businesses that help to make this area even better. Some of the stories deal with the Boy Scouts and other youth organizations and some deal with honoring our emergency service personnel.
A few columns each year gives me a chance to honor the brave men and women who have stood the watch for this country, our veterans, and some columns have touched on subjects that probably brought a tear to your eyes. Then there are the columns where I express my opinions about a particular political subject or person in the news.
I have tackled issues and have shared with you my take on a given subject. I have written about illegal immigration, abortion, big government, gun control, civil rights, politicians, the death penalty and a host of other topics that have elicited letters to the editor, emails to me directly, phone calls to my home which are usually polite but sprinkled with some that are vulgar, as well as comments made to me in person as I wander about this community shopping or taking in a meal.
This column may just be the column that opens me up to a great deal of criticism beyond what I usually get from those who generally disagree with my thoughts.
A few weeks ago I shared with you our task of being a part of the tourist industry and our role in being great hosts to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who pass through our little part of the world. Some of you have even shared with me that the column inspired you to step up to the plate and chat with tourists and make recommendations. So I feel it is time to step into the fray and move the conversation regarding tourism to the next level. Sidewalks and parking lots.
When I first moved here in 1980, the closest traffic light to Oakhurst was at the northern end of Fresno near where the Der Wienerschnitzel is located. When the first traffic light was proposed, people were outraged and it was the talk of the town. After the installation of that first light people saw the convenience of having the traffic regulated and with the huge increase in traffic since the later 1980s we all know how difficult driving in Oakhurst would be without those lights.
As the highways have been widened the State of California has seen fit to add sidewalks to our area. Again, when the first sidewalks were being discussed people were concerned about the amounts of land necessary to accommodate those cement paths. Once again, we’ve seen that the sidewalks have been useful.
I was driving through town on the way to teach a few weeks ago and realized that there are areas in town that, because of the lack of sidewalks, our tourists are limited to where they may safely walk while staying in our local inns, motels, or campgrounds. For a tourist to attempt to walk from the Best Western Motel to the Art Gallery a short distance north along Highway 41 that tourist is walking on a dangerous path. As a result, they don’t walk along the highway.
Restaurants are limited to the walking distance as well as the “walkability” aspects for our guests to endure as they decide where to dine out in our area. It is the same with parking. When we have festivals taking place in town the area is overrun with cars and parking is a problem. Shopping centers and small businesses are obligated to hire folks to ensure that the people parking in that lot are there simply to shop in that business locale. While over in Sonora I noticed that area erected a parking structure that blends in with the area and yet provides multiple stories of parking.
We need to begin the discussion amongst ourselves and then we need to talk with Tom Wheeler and the other supervisors about our problem. The traffic is only going to increase and the number of visitors is going to have an impact on the traffic flow in and out of the Oakhurst area.
Thirty years ago Nate Carhart proposed a building ordinance that would have required local businesses to adopt a facade of either Victorian or Western Clapboard so that the town would have a welcoming charm. His proposal in the early 80s called for the changes to be made within 15 years so businesses could make plans and arrange the financing. People scoffed and attacked dear Nate’s plan and said it wasn’t necessary. Had we listened to him our town would look a great deal differently today and we would have had that task completed before the year 2000. His visionary thinking was met with protests that were unfounded.
It’s time we decide to talk about the “walks.”