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Finished product worth ‘ugly’ work

My Opinion
Alan Stewart, Staff Writer

The massive infrastructure overhaul on the square in downtown Corydon will undoubtedly be a headache and an eyesore for most of 2015. Instead of being met by the beautiful, limestone First State Capitol Building and plush green grass on the square, when people come through the town they’ll likely be met with construction fencing, dirt, mud and all sorts of other unsightly things that will make the square look like a war zone as the 10-month project takes place next year.
Yes, it’s going to get ugly. Really ugly. Probably just as ugly as the Constitution Elm was as it got hacked into tiny pieces, with only a stump remaining.
And it’s fine by me.
Long before any of us were a twinkle in our mothers’ eyes, the square was the heart of downtown Corydon. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking it’s always looked the way it does now. There were other buildings there that have long since been torn down (a magnetometer may have located the remains of an outhouse on the northeast corner). There are trees that are no longer around. Some photos from decades past show almost no grass in the square.
In other words, it took a lot of work to get the square looking the way it does today. And, unfortunately, that’s what is going to make the scheduled work so difficult to bear.
But it’s work ‘ a little more than $1 million worth ‘ that is needed to make the square look wonderful for Indiana’s 2016 bicentennial and, more importantly, beyond.
Numerous electrical shorts due to shallow power lines have all but crippled efforts to make Light Up Corydon even better than it can be, a few 60-watt bulbs are all that illuminate the Hurley D. Conrad Memorial Bandstand, passing in front of the First State Capitol Building is difficult for those using wheelchairs or walkers due to non-ADA compliant creekrock pavers and, due to a lack of drainage, water is wicking into the Capitol Building itself.
The work will address all of these issues, and more, in one 287-day swoop.
Sure, it’s going to be unusual to not have an Easter egg hunt, band concerts, meetings and leisurely strolls across the square, but, as Laura Minzes, deputy director of historic sites, structures and land for the Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites said, the project is ‘Dig once, down once.’ The state wants the project to be a one-time inconvenience and wants the square to be in better condition in two years than it is right now.
We need to suck it up and accept it, knowing what is being done is for the long-term health of the square.
As part of the project, the state plans on repairing the Constitution Elm’s plaque and the iron railing that surrounds what’s left of the tree along High Street near the town square. There’s also a proposed addition that Minzes said she wasn’t sure would come to pass.
The proposal would include brick pavers across the sidewalk on the east side of the tree, into the street and continuing into the sidewalk on the southeast side in a circular pattern to mark the drip-line of where the enormous branches of the Elm once extended. A similar circular brick pattern would be laid on the west side of the tree.
Anyone who has been to the ‘new’ Busch Stadium in St. Louis can see a similar idea in the streets near the ballpark, marking the old outfield and foul lines for ‘old’ Busch Stadium that was demolished in 2005.
I think it’s a neat idea that I hope comes to fruition. The biggest hurdle likely would be convincing the Corydon Town Council that tearing up a perfectly good street and sidewalk would be in the town’s best interest.
And here’s another idea: As a way to get schoolchildren jazzed about the bicentennial and have some ownership in the project, what if the county’s children had a penny war to help raise money for the drip-line pavers? If the town had little-to-no money invested, why would its council say no?
We could mark the children’s financial achievement with a small plaque ‘ also to be placed on the Elm’s sandstone monument ‘ commemorating the efforts of the youth of Harrison County to bring history alive to the thousands of children who visit Corydon each year as part of fourth-grade history.
Then, one day ‘ 10, 20, 30 years or perhaps in 2066 for the 250th anniversary of the state’s founding, those who donated could say to their children, ‘I helped do this. Something I did mattered.’
Some students may only be able to donate a few pennies; others, a few bucks. How amazing would it be to get the entire amount donated, in much the same way children across the country donated a total of $100,000 to help pay for the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty?
But the intention isn’t completely to raise the money. The point is to help our young people invest in their community and realize the importance of belonging in a place that’s recognized as the birthplace of Indiana.