“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” (The more things change, the more they stay the same.) That quotation from Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr in 1848 should always be something to ponder when attempting to change the status quo. After nearly 50 years of living here, I speak from experience in relation to bringing about progressive changes in Fairhope.
When I came here in the early ’70s, I wanted to be the last person to move here. It was such a beautiful and contented town it seemed that bringing in more and more people could only spoil it. Even today I hear new residents echo the same sentiment, which tells me we still have a wonderful city to live in, even though the population has increased nearly fourfold since I arrived. Change, even positive change in Fairhope has often been met with stubborn opposition, usually led by people who react rather than plan, who rarely offer suggestions on how to deal with problems but instead, for their own selfish reasons, frequently attempt to destroy plans presented by others.
Over the decades, I have always been active in trying to move Fairhope forward into a better future. Those contributions include helping to create over 80 acres of new parkland, saving the new museum building and creating the park adjacent to it, and conceiving and being instrumental in creating Centennial Hall. The point of saying this is that there has always been opposition to every proposal put forward, usually by people who don’t participate in producing positive change but are ready to pick up the pitchforks and torches to raise a howling mob to storm city hall.
In regard to the Working Waterfront proposed bayfront improvements, let’s take a walk through Fairhope’s history. First, there was no Fairhope until a group of utopian visionaries came here in 1894 to build their dream. There wasn’t even a pier in their new town, so they created one nearly twice as long (nearly half a mile!) as the current pier because they understood that a pier that extended to the 12-foot drop-off would permit ready access to and from Mobile by bayboat which would not only supply transport for their agricultural products but also attract new residents and visitors to help us grow. To build the pier, they had to grade the bluff to build a path, then a railroad, then a street, so that by the 1920s the entire area was covered in buildings—businesses and warehouses—and money poured in. Stack’s Gully was filled in so that South Mobile Street could be easily reached, and inns and hotels did a booming business.
The opening of the Causeway and the Great Depression changed all that as the buildings deteriorated, and by the 1960s the bayfront area was in sad shape. The buildings were torn down, and a new pier was needed. The fountain was constructed by our own City workers, as was the rose garden, and, if you read old issues of the Courier, you’ll see that for every one of those “changes,” there was “bitching and moaning” from people who did nothing to plan or participate in the new ideas; they just wanted you to understand that they were against it!
The fact that over a month ago the announcement was made the project will be reengaged, you must wonder why people are still complaining? If you missed out earlier this year, be a part of the process, get the facts and offer input this fall.
Otherwise, we do not want to hear from the naysayers who don’t participate, wave the pitchforks and spout vitriolic nonsense when a new plan is developed! The rest of us will move forward with a well-thought-out and well-funded project in partnership with top professional planners and engineers for future generations. As those before us enjoyed the pier and park when it was created 100 years ago and subsequent improvements since we enjoy today.
Dean Mosher is a Fairhope resident.