The quest to turn downtown McMinnville into a giant water park is inching closer to reality. City officials are in the very early stages of determining what it would cost to transform The Lot into a water area for children.
When I say giant water park, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Based on early discussions, the city wants to examine the feasibility of a small splash area with spouts and jets where kids can delight away a little time on a summer afternoon.
The idea, as agreeable as it may seem, has drawn a fountain of feedback since we published a front-page article about it last week. Some folks aren't exactly ready to dive in and accept the idea of the water feature, which would be a place for children to take off their shoes -- not a place to swim.
Local resident Shirley Holt is one of those people who doesn't want another water feature on Court Square. She thinks the current fountain is enough and she called me Wednesday to discuss the matter.
"After all the millions they spent on downtown, it looks good just the way it is," Shirley told me. "I don't think this would be a good idea. Where would they put the Christmas tree? Where would they put the flags?"
Shirley also expressed concern about safety and said there might be problems with children running from the water feature into the road.
Shirley makes some valid points and I certainly appreciate her comments. I think her input can be used to shape this project as it hopefully moves forward.
First and foremost, our downtown area does look great and I wouldn't want to do anything to cheapen its appearance. However, I don't think a water feature with a few well-placed spouts would detract from downtown appeal. If done right, it could be another endearing asset like the Court Square fountain, which is a magnet for activity.
The point is to attract people downtown and water is always an effective carrot. Look at all the people who sit around the current fountain, which, it should be noted, you're not supposed to get in. Think of how many people would flock if there was an area to get your feet wet.
A new water feature could be added with an emphasis on good taste. If there are concerns about children running into the road, there could be a decorative fence. If there are concerns about where to place the downtown Christmas tree, the water feature could use just a portion of The Lot, leaving some of the plush grass in place.
If designed properly, this proposed water feature could be another downtown showpiece, another gold nugget that adds to the appeal of McMinnville. It's an idea I'd like to see explored in greater detail.
I'd also like to give a quick shout-out to city officials for thinking of ways to make downtown better, to improve the glow which is becoming as bright as the Park Theater sign. Downtown McMinnville is starting to strut just a bit and it's great to see this new gait.
Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.