Parking changes only part of city’s future plans

culvert on Carter Avenue

Crews bury the culvert in the ditch at the city’s parking lot off Carter Avenue.

City parking committee plans advanced a little more Tuesday as a 40-foot-long, seven-foot culvert was buried in the ditch that runs along the library parking lot and adjacent to Carter Avenue.
This is part of the effort to expand parking options in the downtown area.
After the dirt fill has settled, the city will pour a concrete sidewalk from the parking lot, along Carter, to Main Street to make it more convenient for those parking in the library lot.
Due to the limited number of parking spaces downtown, the committee sees getting owners and employees of downtown businesses to park in the lot near the library as about the only way to free up spaces for shoppers and other visitors on Bankhead and Main Streets. So far, only one or two business people have been parking in the library lot to set an example.
Other efforts have included improved parking near the alley on Main Street, more orderly parking in the alley between Bankhead and Main and adding spaces behind City Hall.
Mayor Tim Kent said he has been surprised by the positive comments he has received after converting the space for two parallel parking spaces behind City Hall to seven angled spaces.
“One man said it was the best idea we ever had,” Kent said, helping illustrate how much of a problem parking has been.
Kent said they plan to eventually install more culverts in the ditch by the library but want to make sure the one installed Tuesday can handle the flow after a heavy rain. Cost is another consideration since it will be about $7,500 for each 50 feet of culvert back to Main Street at the east end of the lot.
Another change he hopes to effect this year is to finally go ahead and replace the two pipes that run under the street beneath the former railroad bridge. Doing so will probably raise the level of the street a foot or so, which will make the relatively low height of the bridge more of a problem.
The height of the bridge is actually slightly lower than state law allows now, the mayor said, but grandfathered in due to its age. Trucks have struck the bridge with some regularity even though the clearance is clearly posted, Kent said.
What he wants to do is go ahead and remove the old bridge entirely and replace it with a smaller arched bridge suitable for bicycle and pedestrian traffic only. The new bridge would be about three feet higher above the street than the present one.
Kent said he thinks he has found someone who will remove the bridge for the value of the material. Retaining walls on both sides of Tanglefoot Trail from Bankhead back to the bridge need to be strengthened and replaced anyway, something he hopes the trail commission will pay for since it is on trail right-of-way.
Discussion on building a trailhead building continues, Kent said, with a new idea being suggested. One plan has been submitted to construct a trailhead building on the east end of the library parking lot, somewhat similar in design to the long-gone Frisco Railroad depot.
No money is available, however, and Kent said if the trail commission ever provided any it would have to construct the same building design for New Albany, Pontotoc and Houston, which is not preferable from our standpoint. Also, downtown merchants oppose putting a trailhead building there, believing it would discourage visitors from shopping downtown, with their simply getting on and off the trail at the library.
Another suggestion was to construct an addition to the library to serve as a welcome center for the trail.
But the newest suggestion has come from Randy Wilson, a consultant contracted by the Mississippi Main Street Association.
“He said your answer is right there, that we have something no other towns have,” Kent said.
What Wilson referred to is having an existing building, the Henderson Building, right beside the trailhead. A bicycling-related business is already there and a large room is available in the building behind the existing barber shop, which would be sufficient to serve as a welcome or trailhead center.
A walkway would need to be constructed to have good access to that part of the building and the city would need to either buy and repair the building or lease it with an arrangement for repairs. There was also talk of converting the upstairs into a sort of hostel were bicyclists could stay overnight if they wish.
No decision has been made on any of this, Kent said, but they have been given more ideas to consider. He added that they also want to work on the archway and small plaza idea for the beginning of the trail as soon as they can.