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August 29, 2011
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Nevada City unveils Commercial Street boardwalk


By the time the sun had reached its peak on Sunday, a public space had sprouted along Nevada City's Commercial Street.

Where cars were parked the evening prior, benches and planter boxes sat atop a stained wood-deck platform connected to the sidewalk along the historic downtown corridor.

And if the boardwalk proves to be popular and not a burden to maintain, it could be the first of several more pedestrian spaces downtown.

"To me, it's part of the overall picture of what many groups are saying they want to see in town - a more pedestrian friendly community," said Duane Strawser, vice mayor and Nevada City Council member.

The boardwalk, which takes the place of three parallel parking spaces on the south side of the street, is a pilot project set to be re-evaluated in February 2012. Until then, City officials will monitor how much maintenance is needed; if it affects businesses; and what kind of crowds it draws. Barring serious problems or failure to renew its permit next year, the boardwalk could be around for as long as it is structurally sound.

"I'm very interested in the downtown and a big believer in doing whatever we can to improve business conditions," said Gary Tintle, a contractor and Nevada City businessman.

In the last six weeks, Tintle was largely responsible for constructing the benches and planter boxes, built from recycled and donated materials. He and a couple dozen other volunteers hauled the equipment to Commercial Street Sunday morning, where they quickly erected the decking.

Beyond the time it will take the Public Works Department to paint traffic lines on the street, no City funds were spent on the boardwalk, said City Council member Reinette Senum. The estimated $1,600 cost of nonrecycled materials was met through donations and fundraising, she said.

"I would like for people to see the advantages of creating outdoor space where people can hang out, (and) use that as a model for some potential future street closures," Tintle said. "Maybe some more permanent installations."

One idea that's rumbling around Nevada City is closing Pine Street between Broad and Commercial streets, making it a pedestrian-only area. Another is extending the boardwalk along the entirety of Commercial Street.

But City Manager David Brennan said although the idea of future projects is being floated to businesses downtown, it's too soon to say where, and to what extent, any additional public spaces might be.

"Every city and village in the world has a town center where people can loiter," said Senum, who worked to bring the project to fruition through the City's Sustainability Team. "It's a no-brainer. It's human nature to be in places like that."

Senum voted just last week against a public ordinance that gives law enforcement officials the authority to ticket individuals who fail to move when asked to stop blocking the flow of pedestrian traffic. Although the measure passed and will be enforceable citywide, it originally was intended for the historic district.

Corey Bristow, owner of Cafe Mekka, is "stoked" to have the boardwalk in front of his coffee shop, providing outdoor seating for his customers. Despite his excitement, Bristow is reserving final judgment until he sees what kind of crowd dominates the erected public space.

"The bar scene can be rough," he said.

Bristow isn't alone in his trepidation of the nighttime crowds. Before the boardwalk could be installed, cigarette butts and vomit were first cleaned up from Saturday evening. There is also the often-reported drug use and peddling in the area.

As long as the wrong element doesn't take root and scare off others, Bristow thinks the boardwalk will be a success.

The main factor on whether the boardwalk spawns more public space, or even stays around itself, is the amount of maintenance required, said Brennan.

"I'm hoping people don't destroy it," he said. "If people respect it, this could work."

To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, e-mail crosacker@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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The Union Updated Aug 29, 2011 08:20PM Published Aug 29, 2011 08:09PM Copyright 2011 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.