May 21, 2013

My Point Is... London...a tree and floral wonder

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Working in the midst of our fair city has its definite advantages. First, our office is on the corner by the Laurel County Courthouse and just two blocks from the new Judicial Center.

Job duties involved with the newspaper business often send me driving and walking along the streets of downtown. It is a view of beauty and nature at its finest.

The spring brings the bloom of the hundreds of tulips that line the streets of downtown. Their colorful bursts of yellow, red, white, purple and variegated colors make a bold statement against the greenery of other plants bursting through the flower beds that line the city streets.

Growing up in the area has brought great respect to the various organizations and funds that have brought London certification as a “Tree City” and a “Garden City.”

While I admit to loving the view of the former Bradford pear trees that lined the streets each spring with fragrant white blooms, the new decor is even more appealing to the eye. The black English-style lamp posts with potted plants dangling enticingly from their realms and the low lying flower beds along the sidewalks gives a clear view of the city’s storefronts. Many of these depict the history of the town itself — from Weaver’s Hot Dogs and Bob’s Ready to Wear to the revitalized buildings of The Scoville Firm and the Laurel County Courthouse. The view also includes the line of attorney’s offices, an electrical supply store, banks, a church, and several empty buildings —one of which offers dilapidated boarded-up window as a classic view. Perhaps the Bradford pears would better have been left in that particular section of downtown.

Despite the few drawbacks to the Main Street view, downtown London offers a tour of nature to motorists walking or driving through the city. I can recall those days when Warren Scoville’s office was once a corner store where Kim Hedrick Floyd and I used our hard earned money to purchase a $1 item as a Mother’s Day gift for our mothers. The current First Christian Church Fellowship Hall was once Moren’s Grocery, and the Dollar Mania store by the Windstream office was the first Kroger store in town. Big Lots was once Winn-Dixie and the Sears located in Carnaby Square was once the popular TG&Y store -- the first large chain store I can remember locating in London.

While I have wondered how London could achieve the status of “Tree City” when the Bradford pear trees were destroyed throughout town — spare only those by Cumberland Valley National and First National banks’ ‘pocket park,” it apparently hasn’t affected the certification.

I’m waiting now for the floral and shrubbery that was promised to the new parking lot on Broad Street — an area that initiated preservationists to protest the demolition of a historical home whose background was embedded in London’s ancestry. The rock retaining wall was completed last fall, but unless I have been too engrossed in safely crossing the street from the parking lot to the judicial center, I have failed to notice the extensive landscaping that was promised when the parking lot was proposed.

The lack of landscaping, I hope, has its own prospects for the future. Despite the protests of those (including myself) who hoped to save the Pennington House from demolition and the opposition to another historic site being paved for a parking lot, I must admit that a second level to the current lot is direly needed. We protesters believed that those persons needing handicapped parking should be accommodated with the lot beside the judicial center — which could become a two-level facility with lower level entrances from Main Street and second-level entrance from Broad Street. The remainder of the good citizens needing services in the new courthouse could walk from the parking lot at the corners of Fifth and Broad. With the federal courthouse in such close proximity to the judicial center, the parking lot is used for both places and morning court times require many of the citizens to park in the old parking lot and walk the other two blocks to the judicial center.

The old saying about Karma has held true, and I have found myself to be one of those who arrived later than expected at the judicial center because I was unable to find a parking spot by the judicial center. Huffing and puffing my way along the slight inclines of Broad Street to the judicial center, then rushing down the hallway to the courtroom was a burst of enlightenment as I recalled how avidly I opposed abolishing part of London’s history by trading a house for a parking lot that was termed “not needed.”

Indeed, it is needed. In fact, it needs to be expanded. But if that is not structurally or financially possible, the promised landscaping that now highlights London’s downtown decor needs to be extended to that area to truly highlight the progress of our city.

And, Mr. Scoville — my friend and a truly wise man, relish in the fact that I have finally admitted that you were right!