Local leaders share dreams for riverfront

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

FERRIDAY, La. &045; Visions of a riverfront like Chattanooga, Tenn., were shared with members of the Ferriday Rotary Club meeting Thursday.

Gina Buckley, vice president of the Vidalia Chamber of Commerce and owner of Westaff, gave a presentation on what she and 20 community members saw when they visited the Tennessee river town.

&uot;We came back with a lot of ideas and a lot of plans,&uot; Buckley said.

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One of those plans included building a fresh water aquarium along the Vidalia riverfront. During the two-day trip, the party, which included Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, saw how in a 10-year period Chattanooga turned dilapidated downtown into a viable and productive area.

&uot;The cornerstone of that revitalization was the aquarium,&uot; she said. &uot;Now it’s a wonderful and beautiful place. This is what we got to start in downtown Vidalia.&uot;

Buckley told club members and their guests that downtown development can be done here if people are willing to work together.

She said the area should capitalize on the fact that it is promoted as a retirement community and they use those retirees as a resource in development plans.

She gave an example of how the children’s museum in Chattanooga is run by volunteers who are retired.

&uot;We can do that here,&uot; she said.

The first project Buckley suggested the community get off the ground is the fresh water aquarium. During the tour, the Louisiana group saw that the aquarium was constructed to show how plant and animal life lives in different strata of the river. The aquarium facility included a balcony on the fourth floor so visitor can look out over the river and downtown.

Buckley said she envisions the aquarium, along with an interactive children’s museum, drawing visitors from as away as Jackson.

She said at this point, this is only a vision of what could be in the area. She noted that issues like feasibility, land, construction and most importantly financing the project are just some of the details that will need to be worked out.

&uot;Funding certainly is a problem as it is in any project like this, but I believe it can be done,&uot; she said. &uot;I can see this aquarium on the riverfront. The vision is there, now we have to work together to see if we can make it happen.&uot;

Mayor Copeland said he was impressed by what he saw during the trip, and he is eager to share the ideas with members of the riverfront committee when they meet in two week.

&uot;It (riverfront development) is their project, and we will have to discuss it with them,&uot; he said.