By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Six projects are currently ongoing that will help improve the look of Cherokee’s downtown and cultural district. The projects are mainly geared to make it easier for people to get around town safely.
“Safe pedestrian spaces are the impetus behind most of these projects,” said Damon Lambert, Tribal Building Construction manager. “By providing safe walkways away from motor vehicles, people are more likely to park their car and get out and walk to multiple shops, spend more time in town, and enjoy their visit more than if it’s an unsafe and unwelcoming environment.”
According to Lambert, some of the projects include: completion of downtown bridge parking area, Cultural District Streetscape Phase II and III, re-paving of the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds, streetlight enhancement and streetlight banners.
“People are naturally drawn to inviting spaces,” said Lambert. “All of these projects are encouraged to improve the economic vitality of the community by providing visually appealing and safe spaces for people to enjoy. We are also trying to provide a more natural look and feel to the public spaces. We are blessed with a beautiful natural environment and we are trying to reflect that and build upon it. All of the projects incorporate landscaping that not only is attractive to the eye, but provides other benefits such as shade, reduced water runoff, and, as mentioned before, a buffer between cars and pedestrians that makes walking much safer.”
Phase II of the Cultural District Streetscape project is nearing completion. The $500,000 project, funded from a Cherokee Preservation Foundation grant, has involved installing new sidewalks and streetlights, adding benches and trash cans, landscaping and work on underground utilities. The signage portion of the project still remains to be done. The work was completed in the area from the Oconaluftee Island Park bridge to Drama Road and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.
Phase III, currently in the design phase, will continue the work from the Drama Road to near the Thunderbird Motel on US441. It is being funded by a $1,000,000 grant from the Foundation.
“In the weeks ahead, we will be installing signage, streetlight banners, and other items that will share our rich Cherokee heritage and provide the public with additional opportunities to learn about our culture,” Lambert stated. “We look forward to continue working with the business and property owners that are affected by these projects.”
The re-paving of the Fairgrounds is set to start Friday, June 1 and Lambert relates it should take a month to complete.
“At the end of the day, these projects are about improving the product that Cherokee offers. I hope our business community rallies behind these projects. We always try to minimize project duration and disruptions. When these projects are completed, I think the effort will have been well worth it.”
Matthew Pegg, Cherokee Chamber of Commerce executive director, commented, “Just like when you invite people into your home, you want to make it look as nice as you can so your guests feel comfortable and have a good time. Cherokee’s streets, parking and walkways look great.”
“Tribal government has done their part to make Cherokee look good, and I hope that our business community follows their lead. Even the simple things like a coat of paint, some soap and water and using a broom to sweep up trash and cigarette butts all make our locations more appealing to visitors. If we all do a little, it will surely produce big results this season.”