A Little Respect, Please

I sat down with economic development director Norm Charest the other day and had a talk about marketing and Berlin’s future (a good recap of the conversation will be in next week’s Berlin Reporter). He pointed out that marketing will only go so far when the first thing people see in the city is burned out buildings and decrepit houses. He said he didn’t see that marketing would amount to much, which I don’t agree with, but he did make an interesting point. He brought a business owner to the veteran’s park along the Dead River to show how beautiful the area is. They walked along the river for a little bit and then popped out the other side, with a great view of Mount Forist. The first thing the guy noticed, though, was a burned out building on Second Avenue.
That inspired me to take a walk along that same path, to see what that park is really like. I ducked in the woods wherever I could, checked out the Dead River and sat under the railroad trestle. What astounded me wasn’t the burned out building on Second Avenue, or the one on York Street, but it was the condition of the park, from A to Z, and the crap sitting in the Dead River.
Mr. Charest said it had been a long time since Berlin residents had anything to rally around, anything to really bring people together. He and I don’t see eye to eye on all aspects of Berlin’s development, but I can understand his point there. I think the Notre Dame renovation has been a rallying point, but not enough to energize the city. There needs to be something to pick the city up; something people can believe in.
But then, I remember what Dana Willis said. He is one of the developers of the Notre Dame project. He said it was the community involvement and effort he saw from Project Rescue Notre Dame that convinced him to do something with the building. PJND painted the windows blue, the school color, and cleaned up around the property. So was is it the renovation of Notre Dame that rallied these people, or was it the rally that led to the renovation?
Walking along the Dead River, it wasn’t the burned out buildings that caught my eye. It was the truck tires sitting in the river and the trash along the bank. Wondering what the photo is at the top of this post? It’s the bicycle sitting in the Dead.
Berlin needs to rally. Yes, there are burnt out buildings, and they aren’t going away fast enough. But what about the bicycle in the Dead River? What about the tires there too? What about the properties not adequately maintained? What about trash on the side of the road.
I hear the arguments already, about people not doing their part with their property. So what? Did Project Rescue Notre Dame worry that there were other vacant buildings on their street? Is there any excuse for the amount of debris in the Dead River? Does anyone need permission to clean it up?
This evening I volunteered to go out and pick up trash around Cathedral Ledge, to keep a place I care about clean. There are people who throw beer bottles off the top of the cliff. It will be me and others like me that clean up their trash. Who will clean up Berlin’s trash? Who will invest their time to clean it up?
No one can clean up the fires though, right? Wrong. The city is doing what it can to obtain and demolish dilapidated properties. Having worked on a story about this I am convinced the city is doing everything it can. Every few weeks at the city council meeting I hear about another building going through the RSA 155B process. It is hard for the government — city, state or federal — to deprive people of their property, which everyone should be grateful of. It takes time to change the charred landscape. Be patient.
And if you feel like complaining, go out and fish some trash out of the Dead River. Ante up and do your part, instead of bitching the city isn’t doing theirs. Become part of the rally that turns Berlin around. Or shut up and let the people who care about Berlin put the city back together.

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5 thoughts on “A Little Respect, Please

  1. The fastest way to change a community’s image is to inject cash. The best way to inject cash is to attract jobs/business. The easiest way to attract jobs/business is by getting people to visit your community to spend their time and money. The surest way of drawing people to your community is by putting on events. The easiest events to put on are the ones that attract the very people who are coming here now to enjoy the area. It’s not brain surgery. It just requires a good plan and community support and involvement. PS. It will happen.

  2. Wingzilla? Seriously. No, I am talking about real events that draw people from away, not from within. I am talking tens of thousands, not hundreds. I did not say it would be easy. But it can be done. It must be done and it will be done.

  3. With that positive attitude, I hope you're involved in making things happen. Join or form a group, run for elected office. In my opinion, that's how Berlin will re-invent itself.

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