Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Scottsboro, the Time is Now

"Freedom lies in being bold. The best way out is always through." Robert Frost


Four years ago, I posed the following questions.

...what's next?  Will the citizens of Scottsboro be satisfied with the status quo or will they seize the day and become part of the solution? Will the square get new sidewalks, but fail to become an arts and entertainment district capable of attracting new business and growth to the downtown area? Will Scottsboro continue to be a "go through" town rather than a "go to" town? Will the downtown area continue to roll up the sidewalks at 5:00 pm or will it roll out the red carpet to more dining, entertainment and shopping possibilities? Will we continue to have a under-used Farmer's Market tucked off in an out of the way area or a lively and energetic place for farmers and shoppers to come together in the heart of the city? Will we let our proud First Monday tradition fade into the pages of history, or will we resuscitate it and give it new life in a bustling and vibrant downtown?

So far, the answers for most of these questions are, sadly, negative. We do have new sidewalks, but we are not an arts and entertainment district. We continue to be a drive through town and the sidewalks still roll up at 5:00 pm. We don't have a downtown farmers' market and First Monday is still suffers from lack of support. 

Back in 2014, I reviewed some of the charms of this quaint village in the valley and further wrote about a hunger among the citizens to grow businesses and breathe new life into the the town.


But that was four years ago. Where are we now? 

Downtown Scottsboro, the volunteer group, is still working, planning a few events a year and making just enough money at each event to be able to fund the next event. Our events have grown every year and the feedback from citizens has been encouraging. We have Jingle Bell Square at Christmas, Market on the Square in the spring and a few Movie on the Square nights in the summer. This year, with leadership from our new mayor, Robin Shelton, we were able to coordinate Jingle Bell Square with the town's annual Christmas parade, so our event was bigger and better than ever before. We are also getting ready to participate in Alabama's Bicentennial celebration and are coordinating events with input and direction from the Mayor. The encouragement and support we have gotten from him have been much appreciated and very much needed. Leaders with vision and courage are essential to growth and we have seen much of that with this administration.

Now, however, we are on the cusp of another big decision. Last night, a representative from Main Street Alabama gave a presentation at City Hall. The benefits of being part of this organization are numerous. Help with branding, promoting, growing and event planning are much needed and the costs of membership are very reasonable, with the biggest expense being a dedicated position within city hall for the express purpose of working with Main Street Alabama. We have a new event planner who could serve in this capacity, but she also has other responsibilities. Can Scottsboro address this issue? With some creative thinking and problem solving, the city leaders should be able to come up with innovative solutions. The big question is, does Scottsboro have the commitment needed? In order to be part of this program, the town has to "buy in" to the process and support it. First we have to apply. There is no guarantee we will be accepted, but not to apply will send a definite message to the community. If we aren't even willing to apply, we will know our town is seriously lacking in backbone. If we are afraid to even TRY, we have failed already. But applying is just the beginning. Assuming we are accepted into the program, then we need community leaders, citizens and volunteers to undergird the process or it will fail. There are no assurances here. Success is totally dependent on the willingness, support, drive and dedication of everyone involved.

Can we do this? I sure hope so. If we don't, I fear for our future. As surrounding towns muster courage and dive headfirst into revitalization, we will either join them or be left behind. So, again I ask, what's next, Scottsboro?




Richi Reynolds
Richi Reynolds

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