Tuesday, August 25, 2009

25 AUG 09: Lost in the For(r)est

A Monday evening meeting at a Columbus elementary school focused on improving a long, well-traveled street. "FORREST RD WIDENING" said the flashing signs near the school. Show down to read that sign, and you risked running off the two-lane section of the road.

To be honest, the issue with me regarding this road never has been the width. I hardly ever drive on it. The issue for me is the spelling. For years, I heard the street signs were inconsistent - some showing one R as in Tuskegee National Forest, others showing two R's as in former Atlanta news anchor Forrest Sawyer. Remember, only you can prevent Forrest Sawyer....

Open a Columbus phone book to the "F" pages, and you might become even more confused. It shows both spellings for addresses - and even shows a "Forrest Food Mart" on Forest Road. Either there's some kind of typographical error here, or this store sells Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. souvenirs.

The White Pages listings of Columbus businesses show three named Forrest and two named Forest. But the addresses listed with those businesses add up to three Forest Roads, one Forest Road -- and one Schatulga Road. Forest Park Baptist must be one of those truly independent Baptist churches....

If that's not enough, Google Maps (yes, a guy checked a map) shows two interchanging names for the street - "Forest Road" and "Forest Highway." When was this a highway? That is, for someone other than an inmate leaving the prison on Schatulga Road?

So Monday evening, I decided to settle this matter once and for all. I drove nearly the entire length of this road - and apparently the recent upgrade of Columbus street signs ended any mix-up. Every intersection I passed was marked Forrest Road. So if you spell it with one R, you err - with two R's.

Yet there's still some confusion along Forrest Road, because of several other signs along the way. We found two churches with "Forest" on their sign or van. Before you laugh at them - could you spell Ecclesiastes or Philippians without checking a Bible?

Next door to Forrest Road Elementary School is an entrance to the Forest Park subdivision. This is potential trouble, as it opens the door for grade after grade of children falling short on essay questions.

Near Floyd Road and Forrest Road, you'll find the Forest Plaza shopping center. Well, the sign IS guarded by a tree -- albeit a small one....

Then there's the intersection of Forrest Road and Forestwood Lane. Something like this probably still would have tourists scratching their heads - and perhaps inspire vandals to spray-paint in an extra R.

But back to the Monday meeting. City Planning Director Rick Jones said the goal is to widen Forrest Road between Woodruff Farm and Schatulga Roads, by adding a center turn lane and sidewalks. One woman told WXTX "News at Ten" three lanes is a "so-called widening" - as if city crews will have to build narrower lanes to save money on asphalt.

Some people at Monday's meeting actually expressed concern a third center lane will turn Forrest Road into a highway for some drivers. But look on the bright side -- this will save Google Maps money, as the name won't have to change.

Money from the "streets and safety" sales tax will be used to widen Forrest Road. But officials say the work won't begin until 2012 - so there's plenty of time to wait on Congress to pass an election-year "Stimulus II."

P.S. We can't help mentioning one other discovery along Forrest Road. A sign shows the "future home" of New Life Church International -- more than a year after it merged with another one to create The Bridge Church on Second Avenue. Is there some kind of secret pre-nuptial agreement here?

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Our Sunday topic about a morning run brought this comment....

Hello Richard. After reading about your encounter with the group of teens on the Riverwalk, I thought that I would share one of my nephew's encounter with a bully in the young Phenix City school year. He is attending a new school this year in the district and quickly learned that one of his classmates has a reputation for determining who is strong and who is weak so that he will know who to pick on. My nephew said that the second thing that he noticed about the guy was that he had a foul mouth, the first being that he was outweighed by about twenty-five pounds. The kid was getting in other student's faces, cursing and challenging their nerve. When he made it to my nephew, he simply looked him in the eye and asked, "Are you a Christian?" The bully was taken aback by this question, stared at him for a few moments and then replied, "Naw, I guess not. I cuss too much." He walked away but its makes you wonder how many times that replayed in his mind for the rest of the afternoon. I am proud of my nephew and I'm sure that he was both pleased with himself and relieved.

That's a very interesting approach to take -- but uh-oh, this brings back memories. That's close to the "Columbine question" asked by a high school killer ten years ago. When a believer asks it at school, the only "weapon" he'd better be carrying is a spiritual sword. Anything else means expulsion, you know.

Let's see what else had people talking Monday:

+ The high temperature in Columbus was a comfortable 85 degrees F. WRBL's Bob Jeswald noted Columbus has seen NO 100-degree days this summer, and has never had one this late in the year. Yippie - parking my car more to prevent global warming actually works.

+ A sign was posted outside the Government Center, announcing the old Ninth Street ground-floor entrance will reopen next Monday. Plenty of senior city employees are looking forward to this - to teach the others how you should start at the bottom, and work your way up.

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington declared it "Vance Smith Day," as the Georgia Transportation Commissioner visited the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. That's a nice start, Mr. Mayor. But if you really want those state highway contracts, you should make your own trip down Forrest Road - which has a side street named after Sam Wellborn.

+ The "cash for clunkers" program ended at car dealers in Columbus. A sales manager at Legacy Chevrolet reported Saturday was "wonderful," with 22 cars sold. But doesn't 22 sound small, for the only Chevrolet dealer in town? There's a reason why the "Mr. Big Volume" nickname was retired.

+ The 5:00 p.m. news revealed a firewalk is being added to this weekend's "Midnight Express" activities. Aw, c'mon - what's next? Are they going to make all the runners jog five kilometers barefoot?

(My sympathies to Laura Ann Sills, a new WTVM reporter - who announced she'll take part in the firewalk. At some colleges, this would be called hazing.)

SCHEDULED WEDNESDAY: A three-week sprint officially begins....

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