About 25 years ago I was a regular at a small theater production group in Templeton. It was definitely a grass-roots group that wrote its own material and music.
In a satire on towns in the county, there was one musical number that asked the question “where’s Atascadero?” The song chronicled Atascadero as an 8-mile long strip mall with no sense of a downtown. No amount of searching would lead you to it. At the time, we deserved that satirical poke in the eye.
But last Friday morning Mayor Tom O’Malley, joined by other elected officials and city leaders, held a ribbon cutting for the Centennial Bridge and Plaza which connects the Sunken Gardens to the Colony Square’s movie theater and restaurants with expanded parking, walking paths and a pedestrian-only bridge.
It is pretty obvious city leaders are focusing on making a downtown that someone would actually want to visit.
I walked the pathway Sunday morning a little after 10 a.m. There were people out walking across the bridge and taking the concrete pathway from the bow-shaped bridge at Lewis Avenue to the bridge at El Camino Real.
The completed project follows one of the many creekside “reservations” that Atascadero’s founder E.G. Lewis called for in his plan for his modern community. He wanted public parks.
The city got this one right. You can look across El Camino Real to see where the city allowed a two-story metal building to encroach into the creek reservation. There is virtually no way for anyone to enjoy that section of Atascadero Creek.
This most recent improvement enhances the Sunken Gardens, which underwent a major improvement project about 15 years ago. I’m sure benches will be showing up along this well-established pathway in no time. There’s even room for a bronze statue of, let’s hope, E.G. Lewis himself.
An impressive gateway leads to the new complex of parking spaces, massive oaks and more. There is plenty of new lighting, too. The path takes you to the entrance of the Atascadero Historical Society. This project ties in with those classic bronze signs that went up without much fanfare almost 10 years ago that read: “Colony District — Downtown.”
And not more than a block away, two very large murals have been painted on two downtown buildings in the past two months thanks to Mike Zappas and his development company. Mike has some development plans for downtown Atascadero that, when completed, will be the frosting on the cake.
It is becoming more and more obvious where Atascadero’s “downtown” is.
Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every other week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or firstname.lastname@example.org.