Mayor Duke Talbott said he believes residents of Elkins are beginning to take more pride in the city's environment, especially where a portion of the Tygart River flows through the city.
Speaking at the Downtown Merchant's meeting on April 21, he said there was a noticeable difference in the amount of trash "pulled from the river" this year during the river cleanup on April 18. He also noted that when the cleanup project began several years ago, the trash was layered.
"We are not seeing that so much anymore, indicating that not so much trash is being dumped along and in the river," the mayor said. "The river should be an attractive place for visitors and residents alike to stroll and enjoy a relaxing afternoon or evening. It's amazing what many other towns are doing to make their riverfronts attractive and relaxing - there's no reason why we can't do the same thing."
The mayor also said that the flood control area has several security concerns and he's hoping that the security fence and cameras recently installed will "hopefully stop a lot of the dumping in the area. We are looking forward to initiating a plan that will make the area a more attractive place to visit."
Speaking about the new traffic lights being installed Talbott said, "Construction for the installation of the new traffic signals, as everyone knows, has the downtown area under a great deal of stress right now. But we hope our merchants, residents and visitors will find the resolve to bear with us until the work is finished. This has made parking somewhat of a problem too, but progress cannot be accomplished without a bit of inconvenience.
"We are experiencing temporary inconveniences for permanent improvements," he said. "We are doing everything possible to keep the inconveniences to a minimum."
The mayor said that City Operations Manager Bob Pingley will be at the Merchant's meeting Tuesday to give folks a timeline on the city's street repairs that are coming and an update on how much longer it will take to finish installing the new traffic lights.
Ellen Spears reported that the ONTRAC evaluators who visited Elkins appeared to be happy with their visit April 13-15. According to Spears, one recommendation they made was to find a way of getting people across Railroad Avenue and into the downtown area - safely.
Railroad Avenue was all but referred to as a Berlin Wall-type barrier to the downtown area. Whether we like it or not, crossing that street is like playing Russian roulette. The speed limit was reduced to 15 mph near the Elkins Depot Welcome Center but I would venture a guess that not a single speeding citation has been issued for violating that restriction.
My suggestion, as it was on Davis Avenue, would be the installation of four-way stop signs at every intersection on Railroad Avenue. That would surely slow traffic down - you don't see people speeding up to run a stop sign like you do a traffic light when it turns to caution, or even after the light has turned red. Both, however, seem to have become objects solely for use in litigation in the event of an accident. Completely stopping at either, especially stop signs, occurs as an afterthought with no anticipation of stopping unless another vehicle is near or in the intersection.
While I'm on the subject of running red lights, it would also be interesting to know how many citations have been issued for this type of violation in the past, say 18 months in the city - or along Harrison and Randolph avenues and on the Five-lane as well. Sometimes one can't help but wonder why they are even there.
A couple downtown merchants - well one is not-so-downtown - are already doing their part or have plans for the near future to help "spruce up the area." Gary Schoonover has installed a very attractive awning over his store, Granny's Attic - ah, I should say had the awning installed for owner Ruth Lynn, his wife.
C.J. Rylands voiced his plans while the ONTRAC folks were here to dress up the front of his restaurant, C.J. Maggie's. He said those plans include a sidewalk cafe. That would be great C.J. We're looking forward to that.
Gordon Blackley, a member of the Randolph County CVB and the one working diligently to get the bike trail along the old railroad track extended to the Elkins Depot, mentioned at the merchants meeting on April 21 that work is being done.
"We are now in a 'silent phase' of the project," Blackley said. "Engineering and environmental studies are being done and these are things that we don't hear anything about while they are going on. It will happen. It's just a matter of time."
The Department of Education and the Arts announced April 16 that a Golden Horseshoe Winner's Reunion will be hosted at the state Capitol on June 19. If you are, or know of, a Golden Horseshoe winner, you are encouraged to visit the official Web site, www.wv.gov/ghreunion, for additional information, or call Molly George, special projects coordinator for the Department of Education and the Arts, at 304-558-2440 or e-mail at Molly.E.George@wv.gov.
Ellen Spears, executive director of the Randolph County Chamber of Commerce, asked me to remind everyone that planning is well under way for the July 4 community-wide celebration, motorcycle poker run, car show cruise-in, city park car show and related events on the lower campus of Davis & Elkins College.
"We need a lot of help parking cars in the city park on July 4 and 5," Spears said. "We also need help in the afternoon and evening of July 3 for the downtown cruise-in."
The first planning meeting for the chamber's golf tournament will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the chamber of commerce office. That event will take place at the Elks Country Club on July 18. Spears is asking golfers to sign up as soon as possible and for chamber members to step forward and help with planning and hosting the event. Even though the event seems to be far away, it will be here sooner than one thinks. She needs to know who can and will help. Sign up by calling the chamber office at 304-636-2717 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Inter-Mountain is spearheading a project of compiling an events calendar that can be downloaded for use by tourists, visitors or anyone else who would like to know what's going on. The paper will maintain and keep it updated. More information will be forthcoming as the project develops. There was some concerns as to whether this interfered with the responsibilities of the Randolph County Convention and Visitors Bureau, but it was decided that there is not a conflict. The CVB's job is to, as they say, "put heads in beds." The function of this program is to keep people posted of what's going on in town and the local area - current events I think would be a good term for it.
According to Randolph County Commission President Mike Taylor, the Courthouse Annex II is coming along ahead of schedule. He said that it might - might mind you - be finished by year's end.
Ed Griesel, president of the Elkins Depot Welcome Center, estimated that there were approximately 1,500 people to visit the Ramps and Rail Festival. From all indications, he, the vendors and attendees were very pleased with the affair. Beautiful weather certainly attributed to the success of the event.