by Sandra Martinez
Knight Community Journalism Fellow
Aug 17, 2008 | 3605 views |  0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Anniston: What’s next

Anniston’s founding as The Model City was grounded in a progressive mindset that cobbled together ideas from many sources. City leaders will have to be equally innovative and visionary to set its course toward environmental responsibility.

The birds will keep chirping, water will keep flowing and Anniston will keep growing. At least that’s the outlook many Anniston residents hope for.

In a not-so-distant future, the city might come into bloom, into its own springtime.

That’s what many city officials seek as they focus on revitalization efforts and demolishing dilapidated structures. Along the way, they take baby steps toward making Anniston a more environment-conscientious community.

Before Anniston’s spring arrives, many small steps have to be taken by both officials and residents. Anniston’s environmental issues might be seen by some local skeptics as a grain of sand on a seashore of changes facing the global environment. The truth is that issues of the environment are everyone’s concern, locally and nationally.

In the past century, Anniston’s average rainfall has steadily increased. In the coming decades Anniston will need to focus on water issues, such as restoring deteriorating pipelines. Another local concern that will contribute to the city’s environmental health is replacing dying trees with stronger, more suitable ones.

Planning for growth involves more than landing the next business.

Abundant water sources are vital

Anniston’s future will have a rippling effect. For the past century, the city’s average yearly rainfall has increased. Average annual rainfall rose by more than three inches by more than three inches in the past 110 years.

Anniston’s main water supply, Coldwater Spring — covering nearly two acres — will continue to benefit from the heavenly liquid. Coldwater Spring has an average flow of 32 million gallons per day, so if Anniston’s population doubled, the city would still have plenty of water, authorities believe.

Repairs are needed on approximately 700 miles of deteriorating water pipes. Expect Anniston Water Works and Sewer Board customers to foot most of that repair bill.

Shade, and lots of it, from native trees

Shade, and lots of it, from native trees

Approximately 373 trees provide shade and beauty for Quintard Avenue between 5th and 18th streets. But to keep the city’s rich tree history alive, planners, city officials and arborists need to learn from history.

Certain species of trees are simply not made to survive in this climate. As Anniston’s innumerous water oaks die off in the years to come, they should be replaced with White Oaks or Southern Red Oaks — trees that have longer life spans and welcome the city’s hot and humid climate.

A 2003 Urban Forestry in Alabama survey found that three-fourths of the surveyed residents consider renting/buying a new home based on whether the property has trees; the same percentage said they place high value in a new community that has plenty of trees.

Homeowners should consider planting trees that are native to Alabama, which also can attract nature’s critters, such as squirrels, butterflies and deer.

The Anniston Museum of Natural History has plenty of examples on how homeowners can adapt their gardens to be eco-friendly and pleasing to the eye at the same time.

Anniston is a small town with big dreams. Witness the 1976 land-use plan’s year 2000 estimate of 44,365 residents. The reality is that Anniston has never reached those numbers. But there’s potential.

The city is busily tearing down dilapidated buildings. Since 2006, almost 300 unsightly structures have been demolished. Calhoun County is working on a similar continuous project, with at least 110 homes identified for destruction. Officials believe that aesthetics for the city and surrounding areas will play a key role in attracting potential homeowners and future entrepreneurs, and will add to the safety of current residents.

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Environment by Sandra Martinez
Knight Community Journalism Fellow

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