The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: Benjamin wise to pull pedestrian path plan

The one-mile pedestrian path could have been a contender: The crown jewel of the oh-so-topical Bull Street baseball stadium. For a cool $2 million, a gorgeous walkway could have bridged Columbia’s historic homes to the veritable palace of gloriously American summer nights that the stadium will inevitably become.

Alas, Mayor Steve Benjamin came to his senses and realized that maybe a nice looking walkway isn’t worth that kind of money.

Then again, long walks about the town and evenings spent at a baseball stadium are both warm-weather enterprises that go together far better than a desperate search for parking and evenings spent at a baseball stadium do.

We can see what Benjamin was getting at: It’s a warm summer evening, the sun is setting and the buzz of the stadium in the distance intensifies as you approach and the flood lights stand tall in contrast to the dimming sky.

With this kind of train of thought, the walkway does seem very nice. It almost makes Columbia sound idyllic.

But it’s an extra $2 million, and it’s for a walkway of all things — along with a facelift for the Columbia Museum of Art. How could we possibly justify that kind of spending?

Sure, the baseball stadium is a steep venture, with a loan clocking in at $29 million, but that’s an investment at least somewhat more likely to pay itself off. The baseball stadium is a business; the pedestrian path would be an ornament.

In fact, the pedestrian path represents less a marriage of summertime activities than it does a deliberate collision. Collisions waste energy, and we can’t condone our leadership’s frenetic thinking.

Perhaps there’s merit in a new greenway for the city, and the art museum may well need a $500,000 facelift, but there’s no need to tack on more debt to an already-hefty bill.
At best, it’s politically tone-deaf. At worst, it comes off as pork-barrel spending.

To be clear, we’ve voiced our approval, if hesitantly, of the stadium in the past. It’s a risk, but it’s got upside and the potential to galvanize Columbia’s community and economy.
We’re glad Benjamin backed down from his $2 million proposal, and we’re glad other members of City Council talked him out of tacking it onto the baseball stadium loan.