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Marion best parking place I've seen

Not since the heady days of the original Chingawasa Resort — the hot sulphur baths and narrow-gauge railway that brought droves of tourists 130 years ago — has Marion been better poised to become a recreational and artistic destination.

This past weekend’s Chingawassa Days (with two S’s, instead of the original’s one) once again proved how a small but dedicated band of volunteers can create an annual event rivaling the best of what big cities offer while retaining the welcoming charm and peace of mind that only a small town can offer.

This coming weekend’s concert and barbecue at Marion County Park and Lake and the engaging Art and Music Stroll downtown — both diligently organized by other groups of admirably spirited volunteers — are but the next events in an impressive lineup of weekend activities, from sports to concerts and crafts, stretching throughout the summer.

Through insight, leadership and old-fashioned hard work, Marion is slowly moving to fulfill its 1880s dream of becoming one of Kansas’ premier destinations both for weekend travel and permanent relocation.

It needs, as mentioned last week, to ratchet up its efforts to combat algae infesting its most valuable natural resources, but it also must address a blight almost as ecologically and economically disastrous.

Travel K-256 through Marion the way a visitor impressed with our events and natural resources might and you quickly see the problem. From one end of town to the other, vacant lots and residential yards are being packed with disused vehicles and debris.

They are at best eyesores, obscuring carefully cultivated natural beauty. At minimum they serve as visible evidence that could lead a less than informed visitor to regard Marion as a low-class, hick town that has never heard of beautification, zoning or anything other than allowing landowners to do precisely what they want, where they want, when they want, even if it fouls the environment every bit as much as barbarians fouled their settlements throughout the Medieval world.

We don’t mean to pick on just the eyesores photographed here. Up and down Main Street, which should be the town’s showcase, the scene is repeated. Side streets are perhaps even more littered with rusting vehicles stored on lawns and along streets.

For a town that invoked the battle cry “not in my back yard” in rejecting the economic development offered by a proposed landfill, Marion seems to have fully embraced filling its front yard with, if not the stuff of landfills, relics that aren’t exactly gleaming examples of opulence.

Whether any of this is illegal is beside the point. Ordinances state that 100 percent of adjoining residents must approve storage of a semitrailer within 200 feet of their homes. Carefully parking a semi at the far end of a large lot may get around the ordinance, but it’s still wrong,

The city can easily amend its ordinances to ban parked vehicles or require that they be shielded from public view. To date, however, it seems interested only in what happens in Jex Addition, tucked away out of view. If Marion is serious about development, it needs to attack the problem citywide and be more concerned about the common good than it is with individual property owners supposed rights to do as they please.

— Eric Meyer

Last modified June 7, 2012

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