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Miracle of Cherry Street

The Miracle on Cherry Street

The BetterWay trees are here! We had a dream; we made a plan; we worked the plan and now we can stand in the shade and be proud of what we, as a community, have accomplished. The 31 trees now growing in downtown Donalsonville stand tall as living reminders of what we can do by working together. If you have read my tree arrival article on the front page, you know that I was literally singing Joy to the Word as the truck delivering the BetterWay trees arrived on Cherry Street Tuesday morning. It  was a day I had anxiously awaited and Hallelujah Amen, it finally arrived.
When I became this newspaper’s editor in the Spring of 2011, the first official Donalsonville and Seminole County meeting I attended was the monthly meeting of the Downtown Development Authority. At that meeting I was asked what was my initial impression of the community. The first thing out of my mouth was, “Where are the trees?”
When one envisions the perfect community, one pictures places to shop, to meet with friends, and to dine with family, and the true ideal of these places likely includes a vision of a comfortable, walkable downtown setting, with street trees, public green spaces, and lively storefronts.
Rebuilding a strong, vibrant downtown requires the energy, focus and interest of many parts of the community and multiple stakeholders must be on board. We, the people in the community, by working together, can indeed achieve the reality of  our collective vision for the future of our home. The tenacity and patience that is required can be taxing, but ultimately, in order to revitalize a community, all perspectives must be represented in order for the whole community’s vision to be realized. After all, a community revitalization project should be focused on maintaining and building upon the history and character of the community and implemented by the people who have the most to benefit from the progress – we, the people who live here.
Trees are good for business! Trees in business districts attract shoppers who will drive farther, stay longer, and visit more frequently than in treeless areas. Research suggests that healthy and well-maintained trees send positive messages about the appeal of a district, the quality of products there and what customer service a shopper can expect.
The good news about our BetterWay Initiative’s goals and plans is spreading statewide and the excitement is building county wide.  I had conversations this week with three out-of-town individuals – one from Dothan, one from Atlanta and one from Athens. They had heard of our BetterWay projects and the plans to make our quality of life here in Seminole County even better. They were impressed. And with what we have done so far, we should be as well.
Seminole County is a wonderful place to live and work and the BetterWay Initiative is designed with one purpose in mind – to make the great quality of life we have here even better.
Project BetterWay is not a chamber project. It is not a city or county project. It is a community project, and the level of success Project BetterWay can attain depends upon the level of interest and commitment put into it by the community. The BetterWay plan is to take what we have, accentuate it, improve it, promote it and then enjoy it!
The 31 trees now growing in downtown Donalsonville are living testaments to the power of the people. We had a dream, we came together as a community and we made it happen. We have started a fire for progress and I can guarantee that I will personally continue to fan the flames. We, the people, can make our dreams for our community come true.
Just look down Cherry Street today. A year ago someone told me it would take a miracle to accomplish our BetterWay Phase One goals. Well, we got one! Now it is time to pull up a bench, sit under a tree and start planning for the next one.

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