Put Back the Bricks read the signs. I couldn’t agree less. Bricks have laid the path for our town for over a century, but it’s high time we get serious about preservation. The real street, the original surface, which lies underneath the brick is the most durable of all surfaces. It is easily repaired and is as old as the Earth itself, literally (for all you godless heathens, primordial ooze not with standing). Time tested and true, dirt is the final answer. If we, as a town really want a distinction between us and other communities, lets take it back, all the way back, let’s get 1860s on it!
“Oh Ward, remember Mount Vernon … it’s that charming little town with those magnificent dirt streets. I still have mud on my shoes!”
There are many benefits to dirt roads, the main advantage being savings. Can you imagine shaving off all of the paving costs for the entire city, forever? All repairs could be completed with a shovel, a wheelbarrow and a six-pack of beer. When you think green, think brown!
Bricks are better than blacktop. That much is true. Over time bricks require way less maintenance than blacktop. But think of a nice dirt road going in front of your house. Now we’re talk’n. Colonial city has always been a misnomer, but we can make it real! We can live the dream!
When the economy totally breaks down, and we have no money to re-pave our streets, we’ll be glad for the dirt. Asphalt will be way too costly to repair and is highly unpleasant, when it begins to fail, infinitely worse than brick. Dirt makes the most sense, because you don’t need skill nor money to repair it.
In addition to all of the aforementioned benefits, this solves many of the city’s traffic problems as well, such as the speed limit on East High Street. Thirty-five will seem down right out of control on a dirt surface. With built in speed bumps, and a cloud of dust, travelers will be lucky to go 25. In addition, this will be great for local business, as motorists will be more likely to stop at our shops, due to fatigue from our washboard streets.
Can you imagine the benefit to the auto and auto repair industries, if everyone went dirt? Talk about economic stimulus. A trip to the grocery store becomes rough truck. This isn’t just about being frugal, it is about adventure!
In closing, paved streets are fine, if you’re boring. Brick streets are better. Dirt roads are the best providing adventure around every turn at a reasonable price. They build community by forcing folks to lend a helping hand to those stuck in the mud ahead of them. They give an authentic look to a colonial city. Honestly does a colonial city have yellow lines down the center of town? No. Don’t put back the brick. Let’s break the mold, lets make Mount Vernon stand out in a cloud of dust, put back the dirt!
To be clear, I’ve always been a supporter of brick streets and always will be. Our brick streets set us apart from other communities. I understand the city’s decision to pave both Gay and East Chestnut streets (although I’d much rather see them remain brick), but with each street we pave or building we raze, we lose a little of our civic identity. An identity that is harder to maintain in a day and age when you can find the same stores and same architecture in every town from Portland, Maine, to San Diego, Calif. As time marches forward, we can’t afford to sacrifice the parts of our town that set us apart.
Hopefully, we’ve all seen the last of asphalt taking the place of brick. Perhaps the next time Main Street and the Square need to be resurfaced, we’ll (hopefully) be in better economic times and we (our community) can seriously consider putting back the brick on Main Street and the square, even if it is one block at a time.
Those who support brick streets owe a debt of gratitude to those who’ve lobbied publicly to keep brick streets, by donating their time and resources making signs and T-shirts. The Put Back the Brick campaign raised awareness, and while we are driving on our smooth as glass Gay Street, we can all realize how much character we’ve lost due to its paving and in a few years when the asphalt begins to fail … we’ll realize that the bricks weren’t as bad as many thought.