Say Goodbye to North Gardendale

I will miss North Gardendale. As I make a leisurely and uncongested drive up Highway 31, down past the police station and then the post office toward the huge economic development engine, Bill Noble Park, that is humming along in construction, I try not to take the ease and serenity of the drive for granted. I don’t want to forget the way North Gardendale is now.

Some say change is inevitable. I am not sure if it is inevitable, but once it begins it takes on another life.

For years, the economic development change has happened down Fieldstown Rd. in the heart of Gardendale. It’s called progress. Progress isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it brings congestion, traffic and a changing of a town forever. Growth, progress and economic development are all beasts. Not all beasts are bad, but by their very nature they have big appetites.

The beasts of growth, progress and economic development now circle North Gardendale, Mount Olive and down 31 to Morris. Why? Well, because when you float a 30+ million dollar bond issue for a park that must generate a lot of revenue, the beasts of growth, progress and economic development must be fed.

There is a lot riding on Bill Noble Park. It’s too expensive for just a sports facility for local folks to use. They already live here and that wouldn’t drive the sales and business taxes needed to pay for the park. The beasts must be fed from a steady stream of folks coming into Gardendale from other cities and states. They need to stay here, eat here and shop here. In other words, they need to spend in Gardendale.

Cities get more money in two ways, property tax and sales tax. Gardendale needs the sales tax to drive this economic development beast. With a 30+ million dollar bond issue for the park, Gardendale taxpayers already pay hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the park even before it opens.

These regional softball and baseball tournaments are a necessity in feeding the beast, but not the only necessity.

It’s quiet now in North Gardendale, but the quiet will end. Hotels, restaurants, strip malls and shops will follow the opening of the park.

Mayor Hogeland said at the last city council meeting that he is already in negotiations with two hotels to come to Gardendale. The tax dollars need to stay in Gardendale, after all, to pay for the park and feed the beast.

Where will those new hotels, strip malls, restaurants and shops be located? It’s a good bet that they will be as close to Bill Noble Park as possible. Keep your eye on Highway 31 from the Gardendale Post Office all the way down to Morris and then from the park over I65 exit into Mount Olive.

For those who live in North Gardendale because it’s away from all the progress and is less congested, those days are numbered.

Some call it progress. Perhaps, but there is always a price to pay for progress.

That price is the end of North Gardendale as we know it.