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Making a little town a better place to live

It was kind of sad to see the big boats and motorhomes moving south along West 3rd Avenue in downtown West Point on Tuesday. With Labor Day past, the summer season is ended for another year on West Point Lake. From now until next April there will be a slower pace around the big lake we have in our backyard. We are so fortunate to have it. We don’t have the floods here in the Valley we once did.

In researching back issues of The Valley Times-News I found that downtown West Point averaged one flood a year from 1900 to 1975. According to age-old standards, it’s a flood in West Point when the water from the Chattahoochee River spills over its banks and gets into West 3rd in front of CharterBank. That’s happened only one time since the West Point Dam went into operation in 1975. That happened in May 2003 when an extremely rare rain event took place upstream when the lake was at full pool. Some sites in the Chattahoochee basin got between 12 and 16 inches in one night.

We’re now living with a different kind of flooding in downtown West Point – a flood of people making the downtown area a lively place. It’s good to have the Point University students and staff, the lake campers, people from the east-central Alabama and west-central Georgia region, and oh yes, the Greater Valley Area all enjoying the same area.

Admittedly we are biased to see downtown West Point as a special place. Present and past city officials deserve much credit for enhancing West Point’s historic look with a streetscape project. It was an investment that’s now paying off in a big way. People are attracted to the appearance of the downtown area. It’s a nice place to enjoy a meal with friends and family in any one of the super good downtown restaurants now lining West 3rd.

We’ve had some fun events this past year down by the riverside. The Chamber of Commerce did a great job with St. Paddy’s Day in March. In May, the city and Riverkeeper had a well-attended event in May. It was nice spending a cool evening by the river and listening to live music on a stage. In November, the Chamber will be having a Holiday Fest on the River to get everyone excited about the Christmas season.

There were periods when it looked like the downtown area was in a death spiral. Business activity had slowed to a trickle and people could park anywhere they wanted at any time of the day. Thank goodness it’s not that way anymore.

One can’t help but wonder, though, if city leaders had just waved the white flag and given up without a fight, what would downtown West Point look like now. A lot of hard work, planning and financing went into West Point’s streetscape. It happened because people cared about their town and wouldn’t give up. Would Kia and Point University have come here had downtown West Point become a blighted, desolate, boarded-up place? I don’t think so. West Point has a new life today because people fought for it and wanted a better future. Thank you are in order for people like Billy and Althea Head, Drew and Buffy Ferguson, City Administrator Ed Moon, council members, volunteers on committees, college students who came here to offer input through design charrettes.

I like it that the historic high school building gained new life as the College Hill Apartments and that Fort Tyler was restored. This is what people do when they don’t want to lose their town.

Thank you, West Point, for all the hard work you have invested in making our little place on this earth a better place to live.