Letter to the Editor — March 3

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2022

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The benefit of a downtown and community center

Some momentum has appeared in Clemmons for a community center. When 10-15% of the people vote in our poorly timed elections and there is no downtown focus and no shopping center, it seems like Clemmons has nothing more than a place to sleep outside of Winston. L-C Road is a mess of stores without a center. Someone might wonder why the old K-Mart didn’t become a community center.

On the other hand, when the admirable Jim Buice wrote about the community value of a center, I started to remember places where I lived and which ones had centers. You know what? There were no centers. Some had downtowns where people shopped. They might have included sidewalks and movie theaters. Some had no downtown shops, but there were churches, YMCAs and parks.

Then, when thinking about Clemmons, I see no downtown with theaters, shops and strolling options. More than 20 years ago, my son and I talked about the benefits from 100 bulldozers plowing through Clemmons so it could start all over.

What do I see in Clemmons? Oh my, I see a lot. In no order of preference, I see a fabulous YMCA which already handles outdoor movies, community days and farmers markets. There is Tanglewood Park along with the Civic Club, the Village Inn, the Broyhill Suites, the old library (maybe?) and the new library. Forgive me if I neglected your property. It’s all here.

Does Winston-Salem have a community center? No. Does Mocksville have a square? Yes, yet it’s not a community center. There’s a recreation center at Miller Park. People vote there and kids play basketball. Clemmons voters have schools, civic or church centers. So, what are we missing? A building does not make a center of town or cause a sense of community. Is it that some folks in Clemmons, including council members want to spend taxpayer money for a community center that will not be where we call the center of Clemmons?

Do some people want to be like Lewisville? Lewisville has several things (I bet they do a lot of their commerce in Clemmons). In five years, I would like to see if the record of their community center’s use proves its worth. Also, I remember a political science professor teaching us that politicians like to say they built a building but not make or keep it purposeful and busy. They are government without the commitment or strategy that is suitable like the places named above. Also, I remember President Reagan’s most dangerous nine words you can hear: “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Local folks and businesses have a reason for continued success. Forsyth County wanted to build an event center which would have been underutilized if not a straight-out boondoggle.

If you’re willing to bulldoze the “downtown,” you’ve got my support. Until then, we have many facilities that do a great job for our community needs and aspirations.

Finally, a dear friend who may be reading this, once said that, “culture will eat strategy’s lunch every day.” This strategic deal seems without a cultural fit. We do not have a Clemmons downtown with squares and community centers. Then, again we have a robust set of facilities and the tax payers do not have to subsidize or watch them fail (obviously, Tanglewood is government property).

Clemmons has plenty of gathering, meeting, strolling and recreation places. The government does not know better than what these properties give us.

— Paul Johnson