An Open Letter to Mayor Dan

by Leslie Shirley Nielsen

05/17/2018

Hindsight is 20/20 they say. Over Akron’s nearly 200-year history, civic leaders and entrepreneurs have sometimes made questionable decisions as they envisioned our future. Maybe some were bad breaks or bad timing or simple mistakes, but a few are probably due to too much rye whiskey.

Like, I think, the trolley. Yeah, it’d be so cool to have the old Ohio-Erie Canal boats still up and running here so you could hitch a ride through the valley or out towards Portage Lakes. But between railroads and a massive flood that wiped out our canal for good in the 1860’s, closing it was an unavoidable choice. Not so for the trolley.

Trolley cars stopped running here in 1947 as Akron pursued more modern transportation. Think of what we missed: jumping on a trolley to go shopping, bar-hopping, dinner and a movie night? In the 21st century?! C’mon! If we still had the streetcars, this place would be a major tourist destination and would add soooo much for folks who already live in our city.

With that, this is kind of an open letter to our Mayor, Dan Horrigan. I’m assuming the Big Enchilada doesn’t read my sarcastic, mindless chicken scratch each month, so if you know him or his doctor’s dog groomer, have them please pass this along. Thanks in advance!

 

Dear Mayor Dan,

I know you have a lot on your plate right now with the sewer project, the 92,000 potholes on our roads and a slew of other things, so I will keep this brief and to the point. Please bring the trolley system back! I’m not suggesting trying to lay it all back down like it once was. I’m suggesting doing it in a few areas of town that most need it to revitalize their neighborhood. To slap tracks down the middle of Market St. would be asking too much. We have enough orange cones and construction to slow our commute as it is. The perfect place to start this part of our renaissance is without a doubt Kenmore.

Kenmore has so much old school character and many storefronts that still need occupied. The Kenmore Neighborhood Alliance and places like The Rialto Theater, The Guitar Shop, Pierre’s Pizza and Old 97 Cafe have done their part for the Boulevard but they could use some help. You wouldn’t even need to widen the road. Just use the median! Now, imagine it running from Metro headquarters where they used to store the old trolleys and have it go all the way down to the Old 97, named for that famed final stop ’97’ on the old trolley line. It’s just a mile and half of track, so it’s not unrealistic.

I know you aspire to increase our population for the first time since JFK was President. I really think this will help that cause. Kenmore is easily freeway accessible. People would travel from the surrounding areas and even further to spend a day on the trolley-hopping on and off while going to bistros, cafes, shops and watching entertainment. I mean really, who wouldn’t enjoy this? Young would-be business owners and established entrepreneurs would line up for a piece of this pie. Property values would go up as it would become a destination. It would be the same kind of catalyst that the baseball stadium was for downtown. It’s a win-win.

Once you and the city succeed with this stretch of tracks, I would suggest doing the length of Goodyear Blvd. It has many storefronts as well and you wouldn’t have to widen the road much.

I should tell you though, me giving you this grand vision comes at a small price. I want a fifth of Bulleit rye whiskey and trolley named after me. Thanks for reading.

 

Sincerely,

Leslie Shirley Nielsen

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3 Responses

  1. Christopher Esker

    Two things – well more than two, really, but just two things here: (1) The trains started displacing the canals almost as fast as the canals were built, putting the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal that formerly ran down the middle of Main Street out of business in 1870, and (2) the “massive flood” was not in the 1860s, but was in March, 1913, and involved not only little old Akron, Ohio, but most of the upper midwest, flooding to depths unmeasured Wooster, Delaware, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati, and more, and it was Hizzzoner’s progenitors to that honor that ordered the dynamiting of the O&E locks downtown to relieve the flood’s effects, effectively ending the Canal Era in Akron. Third thing: Ya coulda at least used an Akron streetcar photo to lead your bit – there’s tons of them. Here’s a link to a particularly good one, the Akron Kenmore Barberton streetcar line, complete with smiling and scowling operators: http://photos.clevescene.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/download-201.jpg

    Reply
    • Admin

      Good points, Chris. I should have caught a lot of that when I proofed this, but I’ll make corrections here. I’ll see what I can do about the streetcar. I’m not sure where this image comes from, but we can’t just pull one from Cleveland Scene. Thanks for posting! – Chris H.

      Reply
      • Christopher Esker

        Understandable – I have a couple of old originals that are my own, on my office wall, and I’d be glad to give you permission to do whatever you like with them, and Akron’s own Metro RTA has a library of old photos that Metro generally gives blanket permission to us, as long as you make sure to credit Metro for the photo.

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