Closing Butler Street would be a beginning, not an end

In response to an Aug. 1 letter to the editor (“Where does it end?”) about the closure of small stretches of streets in Marietta over the decades to accommodate development by Marietta College: Get over it. That was years ago. If we want Marietta to grow, we need to be part of its progressive changes.

Marietta College is a vital part of our identity and economy. It feeds Marietta directly and indirectly. If we want to see more college students, permanent residents, and tourists out and about downtown, our local citizens and government must enable safe, pleasant, and welcoming pedestrian access. Have you crossed Butler Street on foot on the Marietta College campus? It’s unpleasant and unsafe. Seriously – go try it. Cars go tearing through, something they’ve always done, so you can’t say young people distracted by using phones as they walk is the problem. The problem is prioritizing cars.

The City of Marietta has consistently delivered the message that automobile traffic is more important than foot traffic – which goes against everything that makes downtown Marietta such a charming and vital place to be. If we closed that stretch of Butler Street, it would form safe walkways and intuitive wayfinding for a natural corridor from campus to the shops, restaurants, and bars downtown. Commercial districts with safe walkways thrive because they engage lingering and strolling, rather than parking in a lot to simply run in and out of a store.

We need to think less about what Marietta used to be like, and more about what it should be like. I’ve been vastly disappointed in our mayor’s stubborn and egotistical position on the Butler Street closure. It seems every piece of progress in beautifying Marietta and making it a more welcoming place for pedestrians who want to spend money at our stores has happened because of hard-working volunteers and local nonprofits. And also Marietta College. Quite frankly, they do a much better job of maintaining their properties and facilities than the city, because the college can afford it.

Maybe we should embrace that instead of grumbling about an idealized way things were in 1950. I love Marietta and I feel confident that by 2040, it will be better than ever because we made it so. The pioneers who settled here didn’t build a town just to keep it the same. Otherwise, we’d all be living in a fort.

Sara Bir