The Fort Getty debate
So what can we look forward to in the upcoming year? I have one guess: Fort Getty will once again rule the headlines in 2012. Last year, no other topic packed the Town Council chambers as much or inspired as many letters to the editor – the only thing that could compete with it in 2012 would be a wind turbine.
But unlike a wind turbine, changes to Fort Getty are inevitable. If Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and the Town Council don’t see any clear-cut way that the town could benefit financially from a Taylor Point turbine, chances are that all this turbine talk over the last few years will be for naught. We also have to remember that the wind-feasibility studies haven’t been concluded – is it even practical in that sense? And then the aesthetic issues – anyone who has paid the price tag to live in Jamestown knows how important the skyline is.
Which brings us to Fort Getty. After almost an entire year of Fort Getty debates, Jamestowners still don’t know what to expect. The “improved” and “superior” townowned park is still a mystery. The pavilion collapsed nearly a year ago and the town still doesn’t know how much money it’ll get from its insurance company for the replacement pavilion.
At the Dec. 15 Town Council meeting, a group led by Derek Hansen and Mary Meagher put into the record a petition signed by 475 Jamestown residents asking the council not to make any rash decisions concerning the park. (How important is Fort Getty to Jamestowners? More people signed the petition than showed up to the Financial Town Meeting to vote on the town’s annual budget.)
Basically the group is asking for something simple: Let’s not make any significant decisions just to say that we made a decision. Some Town Council members tossed aside a charrette held earlier in the year on preferred uses of Fort Getty because only about 100 islanders showed up to the event. Well, if that’s the case, how much sense would it make if just five council members made the decisions? Five is less than 100.
Then there is the RV campground controversy. Typical argument to keep the campers: They pay to stay there for the season and they bring money to island businesses. Typical argument against the campers: They act like they own Fort Getty and Jamestowers don’t feel welcome there.
Well, there are two sides to every coin. If the campers are so rude and off-putting, why are there just as many islanders saying that they are a nice group of people? And if businesses will fail so badly without them, why isn’t every owner of these shops at public meetings making their voices heard that they can’t live without campers?
I think Hansen and Meagher have the right idea. Right now, nobody has any answers. Fort Getty isn’t going anywhere. Let’s take the time and get this thing right.
— Tim Riel