Stowe Park

RE: Belmont’s Busy Weekend

Well, a big weekend has come and gone in dear old Belmont.

Some of the more progressive realtors in town were able to piggyback on the weekend that drew thousands of visitors to Friday Night Live!, the Garibaldi Festival, and the Belmont Women’s Club Home Tour. There were multiple “open houses” for homes that were for sale in the Belmont area. Realtors certainly took advantage to show their listings this weekend and particularly on Sunday.

photos from Belmont Rocks! website:

Some homes for sale within the tour pattern were visited by a number of individuals, and a few received offers this week according to our sources.

Now this is the way to market Belmont, events, social life, school activities, and FUN!

congratulations to all the people who continue to show the best of what Belmont has to offer. This summer should be very interesting with all the upcoming events that are planned.

Gaston To Welcome Olympic Hopefuls In Belmont’s Stowe Park Wednesday

Come see some future Olympians and welcome competitors in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Whitewater Slalom Team Trials in Belmont’s Stowe Park Wednesday, April 23, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

About 130 competitors are in the area preparing for the trials this weekend at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. The City of Belmont is sponsoring the Stowe Park party along with the Belmont Downtown Merchants Association, Gaston Travel and Tourism and The Gaston Gazette.

There’ll be live music by the band Rough Draft and Whitewater Center exhibits. The Belmont Historical Society’s Cultural Learning Center will be open during the event at 40 Catawba Street.

There’s no charge for any of the activities.

What Makes a Great City?

 We thought you all might like to look through this check list. While we have a lot of things to work on , we all agree that YES, Belmont is very good already, and is “becoming” a great city.

This a reprinted article from Project for Public Spaces (PPS):

Is Your City a Great City?

Take a look around your town with this checklist, to see how it measures up.

By Ethan Kent and Kathy Madden

In Great Cities…

Community goals are a top priority in city planning

·  Citizens regularly participate in making their public spaces better and local leaders and planning professionals routinely seek the wisdom and practical experience of community residents.

·  Residents feel they have responsibility and a sense of ownership for their public spaces.

·  Neighborhoods are respected, fostered and have unique identities. There is a sense of “pride of place.”

·  Public spaces are planned and managed in a way that highlights and strengthens the culture of a particular community.

The emphasis is on pedestrians, not cars

·  Pedestrians and bicyclists are more numerous than vehicles (on at least some streets).

·  Streets function as “places” and have numerous attractive destinations along them.

·  Transit options are available to get to places where people want to go and are used by all kinds of people.

·  Parking does not occupy most of the public space; free parking is difficult to find.

·  There is a walkable commercial center convenient to every neighborhood that provides everyday needs and services (grocery store, pharmacy, library, medical services, coffee shop etc.)

New development projects enhance existing communities

·  New developments, both public and private, are designed to include mixed uses and to be easily reached without using a private vehicle.

·  Developments are human scale and connect with places to cut through rather than mega scale, internalized and islands unto themselves.

·  There is a mix of new housing types and layouts that allows and encourages people to grow old there.  

Public spaces are accessible and well-used

·  There are public places within both neighborhoods and downtowns where people can gather informally and regularly.

·  Parks feature attractions for people of different ages and are used at different times of day; they are more than simply recreation facilities.

·  The waterfront allows people to actually reach the ocean, lake or river.

·  Amenities (benches, transit waiting areas, etc) are comfortable, conveniently located and designed to support the intended use.

·  Negative uses or users do not dominate the public spaces.

·  Both children and seniors can easily and safely walk to where they want to go (e.g. children can walk to school, seniors can walk to movies, grocery stores).

Civic institutions are catalysts for public life.

·  Schools are centrally located to support other neighborhood activity.

·  The library is a multi-purpose and popular place where people go for many different types of activities. ·  Civic institutions (museums, community centers, hospitals, government buildings, etc.) have resources and activities that appeal to people of all ages and all cultures in the community.

Local economic development is encouraged

·  There are many locally owned businesses-markets, mom-and-pop stores, street vendors, and larger independent stores; these local businesses are encouraged by the city; people know their retailers by name.

·  The mix of locally owned businesses is such that at least some of them are “third places” -places where people can just spend time.

·  Local businesses work with schools to provide internships or part time jobs.

Public spaces are managed, programmed and continually improved.

·  The public realm is managed to maximize community interaction and to facilitate public outcomes.

·  Spaces are managed to provide opportunities for generations to mix.


Belmont becomes Berkeley

 peace-sign.gif

Belmont Middle School students, evoking memories of a past era of protests by young people, held their own rally at Stowe Park on January 15. A peaceful protest rally seeking to be heard in the town-wide discussion of behavior in the park and downtown area.

Spurred on by a growing animosity between hundreds of adolescents in the downtown area immediately after school and downtown merchants, Belmont police addressed all the parents via a letter.

The word got out that the city wanted the park emptied of young teens and that the kids were ‘banned from the park”.

As the BannerNews reported, albeit delayed by its posting on this site, the students were not “banned”, but were definitely given the message to “go elsewhere”.

Parks and Recreation opinion — set up surveillance systems to track troublemakers — not a good option.

Downtown Merchants opinion — get them out, or get them supervised — not particularly good, but better.

Belmont Police — we need more officers, we need more money — SOP response, also not productive.

Gaston County Schools’ — once the students leave our campus, they are no longer our responsibility — oooh-kaay, how productive is that?  

The kids took matters into their own hands, and, voila’, a meeting occurs on January 16.

Way to go Teens! 

We still stand by our original opinion, that all the groups need to dialogue/plan better afterschool options so that “bad apples” don’t spoil the adolescent need to “hang out” in public areas — and feel safe while growing up.

It does require the entire community to monitor. It does require individual families with children in this age group and school group to have open communication and supervision of the kids. It does require cooperation.  

 peace-fingers.gif

Belmont Police try to rid Stowe Park of children

Sorta anyway,                                   belmont-pd-logo.jpg

Just wrote an inflammatory headline to see if ya’ll were paying attention.

But, there is an issue brewing with the popularity of the downtown area with young and old alike.

Stowe Park has long been a gathering place for students from the junior high/now, middle school, immediately after school each day from about 3:05 to almost 6:00 PM.

After the Central Avenue bridge was renovated in 1992-1993, the Belmont Public Library saw a huge increase in the after school “attendance”. The library created a policy for behavior and time limits for this new attendance pattern.

Successive Belmont Middle School principals have had varying levels of success with afterschool clubs and activities, all pretty much completing by 4:00 PM each day.

With the opening of the Belmont General Store and Caravan Coffee Shop, students began flocking to these venues as well as the library and park area.

belmont-downtown-stowe-merc.jpg

Parents began “allowing” the children to go to these places afterschool. Many of the children getting “freedom” after years of afterschool child-care type programs aged them out of their licensing focus. Parents saw this freedom as also freedom from the financial burden of child-care.

So, the community must now bear the added cost of more police officers patrolling downtown Belmont and Stowe Park. As Chief James claimed in a letter to Middle School families, patrolling the park is taking away an officer from [more important] other duties during their shifts.

Caravan Coffee and the Belmont General Store, for all the goodwill that is done by these businesses, have had to call in the police to deal with the behavior of more than just a few kids at times.

The opening of the pavilion at the top of the hill in Stowe Park has contributed to a growing crowd of kids, particularly on nice days.

So, what can be done? The BannerNews did an article about the issue in last Thursday’s paper:

stowe-park-and-children-after-school.pdf

We are suggesting that the school take a more proactive approach toward afterschool “latchkey” children. “Latchkey” is a terminolgy for children who carry their housekey to let themselves in at home while the parents or guardians are away. It was also used by some political elements to stigmatize children of families who have both parents in the away-from-home workforce.

Community groups such as the the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and others have offered programs for years, specifically designed and geared to the ‘tweens and early adolescents of a community. Many times these programs meet until 5:30 or 6, but not every day. The school itself offers many clubs that meet from 3:15 to 4:00 PM, only closing down when the teacher-advisors vacate the buildings around 4’ish. Team sports generally take place from 3:15 to 5:00 PM and when games are held, large student crowds are present.

Grants are available to offer teachers incentives to stay longer to develop interesting programs and activities.

We agree, this is a particularly difficult age of student to engage. Chief James singles out the skateboarders for example, as a negative impact.

The negativeness of skateboarding and inline skating (called “boarding, or “skaters” respectively) is because the community doesn’t generally take kindly to young (mostly) boys who like individual challenges as opposed to the traditional ‘team sports” approach of engagement.

Girls like to gather in small groups to socialize, and where would that be? Close to where boys hang out – be it on the ball field or in a park area.

surveillance-cameras.jpg

The Belmont Parks and Recreation director’s comments about setting up surveillance cameras in all the parks is short-sighted and not going to accomplish a P & R goal of engagement. It will just send the students “somewhere else”.

One of the Belmont P& R department’s long term goals was to develop and operate a skate park. Now that the bond referendum has passed, it is time to move this project forward rapidly. Of course, if the placement of such a park is farther away from the prospective user group — middle school aged children– the less impactful it will be in the long run. We have long recommended that the lower (unused) tennis courts at Davis Park be the site.

skatepark-space.jpg

(Davis Park photo)

It is time for the elements to match up and get a comprehensive series of goals and action steps into place. We suggest that the four main groups — the school, downtown merchants, parks and recreation, and students (along with their parents) — develop this plan. It would be wise to include the police department after there is consensus on the “self-policing” process before the law enforcement brings its heavy hand to bear on the result.  

  

Richness of Life

In Belmont, we are often faced with the challenges and joys of accepting and tolerating people of many backgrounds, cultures, lifestyles, and faith.

Belmont Abbey College is a rich dynamic of teen angst, higher education, self discovery, religious growth, and a source for leadership development.

Thank you  to Abbott Placid Solari, the priests and brothers of the Southern Benedictine Society, and the faculty and staff of the college.

benedictine-stained-glass.jpg    elizabeth-suaso.jpg    abbey.jpg

One student, Elizabeth Suaso, a student at the Abbey from South Carolina, has written a particularly interesting account of life. It is good reading. Scroll to the bottom of the linked page to look over a 440 page body of work.

Recently, the American Legion honored two people who had given formative leadership to the the development of the Belmont Historical Society, Bob Brown and Jack Page. We know both of these men as neighbors, colleagues, and friends. This year’s Community Service Award by the Legion was well-timed and well-deserved.

Belmont is also blessed by the long-term commitment that Vince and Brenda Hill had made to downtown Belmont. It took a very long time for Caravan Coffee to appear as an anchor of the downtown revitalization. The building renovation seem to take for-EV-ver, first the hole in the wall, then no roof, then the interior. The result has been fanTAStic. They got Brenda’s cake-making storefront up first, and carefully laid out the coffee shop.

caravan-coffee.jpg

Now, the Hill’s have  taken on leadership with the downtown merchant’s association and last summer led the development of the street concerts, called Friday Night Live, on alternating Friday evenings. Vince, you and Brenda got our votes for “Citizen of the Year” for 2007.

friday-night-live.jpg

The former students of the East Belmont elementary school have been doing fundraising to build a memorial for the old school which had been torn down some years ago. The last remnant of the school being the “scout hut” at Park Street Methodist Church and some fencing along Church street.  

As Belmont grows, multiple elements of traffic, business, housing, schools, roads, and newcomers pressure us all to deal with the change in our various ways.

This summer, while picnicking on the hill at Stowe Park during one of the many events, the reflection of how much Belmont has changed over the past 20 years was impacted by all the new faces at each event. New accents, different clothing styles, vastly different types of cars parked on Main Street and along Myrtle all contributed to the noticeable change that has taken place.

The Montcross presentation at the Haid last week had the old and the new in the same room. Curiousity, opportunity, and leadership meeting over wine and cheese.

Interestingly, Clyde Dietz was present at the Abbey that evening. Clyde has to be almost 100 years old by now. He has served this community very well in many capacities. His presence was one more element of statesmanship that we really appreciated.

For many of us, his presence at the event put an exclamation point on the “richness of life” that is Belmont.

Related Link: Order of St. Benedict

Belmont picked as “Best Walkable Community in Gaston County”

Maybe the Gazette does like Belmont just a tad.

Front page above the fold article in Monday Gazette (10/29/07) briefly discusses what makes up a walkable community and which towns in Gaston are the best.

walkable-downtown-belmont.jpg

(Mike Hendsill – Gazette Photo)

Unfortunately, the Gazette writers chose the Hawthorne (Imperial Mill Village) neighborhood as an “established” neighborhood. It is in reality, a new community (built-out over the last 4 years) constructed over what was once an historic textile mill village.

And that is just part of the overall landscape.

Imperial Hawthorne (the forward slash deliberately left off), or now commonly referred to as the Great Wall of Keener, is indeed a very walkable community — for those who could afford to live there.

The more established, and mature neighborhoods, such as Reid, Davis Park,  Mt. Pleasant, Cottonwood, and Adams Bluff, are even better suited for the tag as walkable communities within Belmont. Adams Bluff, however, being the only neighborhood with intersecting sidewalks.

Each are within the mile and a half of shopping and library. Each have low traffic flow which allows for some roadway walking, and the neighborhoods also have distinctive cultural diversity not generally found in the chosen neighborhood. Each are safe in relative terms.

We hope that the new in-town communities of Belmont Reserve (Belmont Hosiery), Eagle Park (Eagle Mill and Village), can and will be rated, because each of these will have internal sidewalks that interconnect with the existing city sidewalks and other neighborhoods.  

Under the Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) concept, and within the Neighborhood Preservation vision as outlined in the recent Comprehensive Land Use Plan, we encourage more developers and in-fill projects to highlight their plan for keeping Belmont a “Walkable Community”