“Leave the parking the way ìt is and do the upgrades, why ruin a good thing?”
“Has anyone ever witnessed what happens in the summer when a tourist (or an islander) that has not parallel parked since they passed their driver’s license test tries to parallel park their oversized whale of a vehicle on a busy downtown street?”
These were some of the comments that we received when Oak Bluffs introduced its streetscape plan for Circuit Ave. a little over a year ago.
The criticism continued, and there was a hue and cry for the select board to hit the brakes on the plans, particularly plans to eliminate the diagonal parking in favor of parallel parking on part of Circuit Ave.
You would have thought the sky was falling.
Sure, there were some supporters. But a large percentage of the population thought the elected leaders of Oak Bluffs had lost their collective minds. And they let it be known at public meetings, in public comments on our website, and on social media.
And when the project actually got underway and trees were ripped out of the ground? Well, the negativity grew even louder. “Tree cutting??? Were we aware of this?? Most unfortunate aspect of a most unfortunate project,” one commenter said.
Now that the project is mostly completed, we have to say the early returns are very positive for the streetscape design and implementation. One of the photos that accompanied our recent story on the changes really told the story. It shows a half-dozen people easily making their way along the sidewalk on Circuit Ave. There’s no bumping elbows, there’s no ducking into a storefront to let someone pass by. The sidewalks are open and inviting.
We also have to say that we’re impressed with the speed of the project. Having been mired in the Beach Road project outside our offices for most of the last year, we’re quite envious that the project in Oak Bluffs is ready well ahead of the season that is rapidly approaching, while we’re still walking on sidewalks that have telephone poles planted in the middle of them and some spots where there’s no concrete at all.
“We love it, it’s great, and especially during COVID, you realize how tight it was and how everyone was bumping into each other. It just feels so spacious,” Islander Jeri Dantzig told our reporters. “This is kind of like the roundabout. Nobody wanted to have it happen, and now it’s the best thing that ever was.”
It may be too early to call it an unmitigated success. We still have to see how the street and our visitors perform during the peak season. But on a particularly busy day recently, it was interesting to note that traffic backed up in the area where there is still diagonal parking, rather than where the parallel parking was added.
We also need to see how the trees grow in and mature, because we do miss how the trees made Circuit Ave. look, and the shade those trees provided on hot summer days.
For now, we’re willing to say that all the angst appears to have been overblown, just as it was in the case of the roundabout.
“I felt I may have been the biggest critic of the Circuit Avenue improvement,” wrote Jodie Swain on social media. “I was *very* wrong. It’s great!”
Good on you, Jodie Swain.
And good on Oak Bluffs leaders for sticking to the plan under some intense pressure to cave.