A proposal - Welcome arches

Friday, October 22, 2004

While traveling this summer to Washington, D.C., I could not wait until we reached the Ohio state line to drive under the arch that spans Interstate 70.

It is not a fancy structure by any means. It is merely an arch-shaped piece of gray steel with a cross beam horizontal with the pavement and adorned with a basic "Welcome to Ohio" sign.

Of course, my children were mostly asleep and weren't as excited as I was. I had only driven that stretch of highway once before, some 25 years ago with my parents. But I still remembered it as clearly as the first time.

My proposal for a series of our own welcome arches for Cape Girardeau was submitted to the Convention and Visitors Bureau (alongside some 100 other citizen proposals) in regard to unspent tourism funds that could be available for one-time expenditures.

I had no costs or plans associated with my proposal, only a dream. Cape Girardeau should be blessed with such a landmark icon for our travelers near and far.

The theme could be incorporated throughout our city. In the business of promoting tourism and areas of our city, we must be cognizant of parity in spending marketing dollars that invest in all areas of the city.

I can envision a welcome arch at the southern and northern entry points of I-55, the Missouri side of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge and perhaps even an arch on Highway 177 for the northeast end of the city.

We could promote the city using the dynamic duo icons of the Emerson Bridge on the east side and a grand Cape Girardeau archway on the west-side portal of our community. As people enter or pass through Cape Girardeau, the archway would trigger their own tales of past trips, visits and homecomings.

The Cape Girardeau City Council took action at the Oct. 18 meeting that may, indeed, be the first step to establishing a welcome arch system. The motion to preserve the archway of the historic Cape Girardeau bridge site in its current location will be a constant reminder of where we have been. The establishment of a grand archway on the west side of our city would turn the page to begin a new chapter of where we want to go.

The city's current general revenue budget will not support any funds to be allocated for the restoration costs associated with the old bridge archway or building a new archway. It will be necessary to find grants and donations to fund the project.

I am confident that we will be able to realize that task with the support of our community.

Charles J. Herbst is the Ward 2 city councilman in Cape Girardeau.

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