Sunday, October 9, 2016

A Better Idea For Greensboro

Who remembers the old steam powered kiddy train that used to run every weekend at Greensboro Country Park on Lawndale Drive a half a century ago? I just might know where it's at. After years of being warehoused, the City of Greensboro auctioned off locomotive, cars, track and all to a local expert on steam engines and boilers who fully restored the entire train and stored it in his own warehouse. Is it still there? It's been a few years so I can't say for sure.

I bring this up after talking this week with a 30 something friend who along with her husband and their 2 daughters, just went on their first family vacation to a children's theme park in Pennsylvania. She said the family thoroughly enjoyed the vacation and it was great that even her 3 year old could ride all the rides but because of the cost of hotels and travel it will be at least 5 years before her family can afford another such vacation.

And this is coming from a college educated, advanced degree, Greensboro business owner whose husband is also a Greensboro business owner.

Burlington has a bigger gasoline powered kiddy train but it pails in comparison to the tiny cast iron locomotive and cars Greensboro foolishly gave up on all those years ago with the tracks along the lake and a trestle crossing part of the lake. And yet the children wait in line every weekend to buy tickets to ride Burlington's train.

And folks, if you've ever been to Tweetsie Railroad then you already know there is nothing that compares to a real steam train-- even a tiny one.

Wouldn't it be nice if Greensboro had a steam powered train? Don't like the smoke? We can replace the coal with clean burning natural gas and still have the steam.

Even better yet, think how great it would be for economic development if Greensboro had a real children's theme park?

Think of all the 30 something families that would travel here with their children. Think of all the 30 something families that would stay in Greensboro to vacation with their children? Think of all the money that would stay right here in Greensboro?

So how do we build it?

Simple really. You know that big empty lot downtown, the lot that is designated for a performing arts center? Forget the performing arts center, they can't raise the money anyway. Build it there, downtown will benefit more than it ever would from a performing arts center.

"But Billy," you complain, "that site isn't big enough for a theme park."

You're right, but then I am one to see problems as opportunities.

Build multiple campuses beginning in the areas of town that most need jobs and economic development and run shuttles between the campuses. Run a shuttle to the Siquarium on Lawndale Drive-- make it easy for families to see and do it all from any one campus.

Then hotels would spring up all over town.

I don't know about the entire city but I can show you multiple properties on the east side with easy access and already zoned for what we need. And yes, they are for sale-- some for decades. And as always, I want nothing out of this.

Use our assets, tie the theme parks into our universities, the A&T Farm, the Nano Center, UNCG, etc, etc, and make it a learning and teaching experience for students as they grow beyond rides and games. Make our city a center of art, science and culture built around a series of children's theme parks that will bring people to Greensboro as small children and keep them coming back here their entire lives.

Or you can continue with that same failed plan that hasn't worked since they built the Greensboro Coliseum in 1958.

And folks, if you believe this could work then please share the idea.

Update: October 18, 2016, I just learned that the City also operated a train in Latham Park prior to the building of Wendover Avenue. It had 2 trestles and was modeled after what would have been, at that time, a modern diesel locomotive.