Hope springs eternal when it comes to making Christmas wish lists. You hope for the toy with all the frills even though you know you might get the “bargain version” (or something else entirely). That’s how it’s been with my holiday wish lists for Merced.
Past wishes remaining unfulfilled include a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market, a Mediterranean restaurant and more housing for the homeless. Other wishes have been partially answered or are nearly in the city’s stocking – including the Campus Expressway, a refurbished Hotel Tioga and housing of homeless veterans. There are rumors a wine bar is on the way, too.
In keeping with the season, we’ll continue to believe our world will improve, that our city’s Christmas tree will be festooned with all things wise and wonderful. And so, welcome to my 5th annual wish list:
Arboretum – The city of Davis joined with UC Davis to build an amazing arboretum winding through town. Laid out along a small creek, the arboretum is now world-famous. Merced has a UC, Bear Creek and space – especially between G and M streets. All we need is the will, manpower and effort to get an arboretum going. What a win-win for the environment, UC and the community!
Tree replacement – Speaking of trees, Merced is still on the Tree City USA list. But when dead or diseased trees are removed from city streets, it can take too long for stumps to be removed and replanting to take place. Maybe Merced needs an official Lorax to expedite things.
Food truck court – Perhaps the best way to experience new cuisine is to jump on board the food truck craze. A small lot downtown could be turned into a food court with shared dining areas. If Modesto can pull this off, we can too.
Department Store – With the Merced Mall slated for major renovation, let’s see if we can attract an upscale department store (Macy’s, Nordstrom’s execs, are you listening?)
Turn lanes and roundabouts – We should improve traffic flow throughout the city. Lanes designated strictly as turning and more roundabouts will make that happen.
Homeless Day Center – Ideally, a center would stay open all days, providing services and a place to take showers, wash clothes, eat lunch, access computers and, most importantly, rediscover our common humanity. It could alleviate concerns about the homeless camping in city parks.
Public art – Many cities dedicate 1 percent of their budgets to public art. Just as Otto Rigan is working to develop public art at UC Merced, we need to focus on creating more spaces for art (as Art Hop and Monika Modest have done) to make our fair city fairer still.
Late Night Diner – There are no upscale late-night restaurants. Why not?
Join up! – In keeping with Mayor Mike Murphy’s motto that Merced is a “City on the Rise,” citizens should show their civic pride by joining service clubs, religious groups or community organizations and do all they can to make Merced – and thus, our world – a better place. Look what the Downtown Neighborhood Association has accomplished! Seems like a great New Year’s resolution!
Christmas wishes – My favorite Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, features Clarence the Angel telling George Bailey, “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” Here’s hoping bells will peal throughout Merced all year!
Marc Medefind is a retired journalist and educator