Opinion: Don’t take local innovation for granted

The planters on Critz Street that have sparked a debate on traffic safety in the area (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)


I drove down Critz Street on Saturday looking for a bigger place to live and encountered the highly-controversial planters spaced out along the street dividing some portions of the road ever so slightly. 

To some, the small flowerbeds are nothing more than a welcome addition to a charming street, while others view them as decorative traffic hazards shoved down the throat of every driver passing through the area. 

For those who planned them, though, the aim is much more than beautification. Rather, the primary purpose is to boost safety along the street, and for a SUV driver, navigating the planters wasn’t that bad. 

There, I said it. 

Don’t @ me on Twitter, or email me trying to change my mind, either. I attempted to look at the planters from the perspective of a wide-eyed tourist, taking in all of my surroundings and not just the pretty houses that line the street. 

With the sun beaming in a blue sky overhead and each beautifully-manicured lawn shaded by old trees, the area is like a nice neighborhood in a romantic comedy. But the allure was made that much nicer by the efforts of one alderman - and other city officials such as City Engineer Edward Kemp and Community Development Director Buddy Sanders - who are actively putting forth the work to beautify the city while making it safer. 

In a community quick to buzz about hot-button issues, these efforts and their impact can go easily overlooked to the apathetic eye. 

Ward 5 Alderman Patrick Miller, still in his first term on the board, held a town hall meeting with constituents from the Plantation Homes neighborhood earlier this week and the question eventually rolled around to feedback Miller has received for the initiative on Critz Street. 

While he has fielded some complaints from those passing through the area, he claims to have not received one negative comment from the residents of the street and I, for one, believe it is because the planters add genuine value to a street thoughtfully crafted with character. 

The planters, in my view, represent a small, yet cost-effective way to raise the quality of life in our community, even if it is just some plastic bins, potting soil and decorative flowers. Safety will ultimately be improved because of these planters, as drivers are forced to move with caution and rightfully so, given that it is a quiet neighborhood street. That tranquility is something to be valued and preserved, which I think Miller understood before he rolled out the concept. 

Even if the idea is ultimately scrapped and the street goes back to being wide open, Ward 5 residents should count themselves fortunate that their representative is at least trying to find efficient ways to innovate the landscape of their community. There are opportunities for this kind of outside-the-box planning all around Starkville, we as a community just have to be vocal about what we want to see. 

As a rapidly-growing college town, Starkville prides itself on being at the forefront of low-cost community development and this is one small, yet sterling example of the braintrust we have in City Hall.  

Will all of their ideas prove this appealing and effective? Absolutely not. But I’m a believer in pointing out the aspects of our community that make it attractive and ultimately serve as fuel for its growth. 

It is my hope that the people of Starkville will look past any perceived frustrations and keep an open mind when it comes to multi-faceted projects like the planters on Critz Street. The lifeblood of this community is tourism and those looking to come back to retire, so shouldn’t the image of the city be taken into consideration at every possible turn? 

Again, I applaud Alderman Miller for taking stock of what is important in this community: Appeal, safety and maintaining the sense of place that makes Starkville one of the most attractive gems in the southeast. 

Ryan Phillips is the executive editor of the Starkville Daily News and the Daily Times Leader. The views expressed in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of either paper or their staffs.