Spring is in full swing and summer is just around the corner. Nature is busy revitalizing the landscape and the city is busy revitalizing downtown Port Arthur. The Chamber is getting settled into their new offices located in the latest City/EDC revitalization project at 501 Proctor. The move has allowed me to explore new streets South of Highway 73 and discover new neighborhoods almost every day. Some of the neighborhoods have retained their quaint beauty and are well maintained. Sadly there are others that have been allowed to deteriorate or become badly storm damaged and can’t be inhabited. As I drive through these areas I visualize how they might have been. As I weave my way back and forth through the area I see the beautiful church buildings and again imagine how magnificent they were when new and filled with worshipers.
There are several committees working on ideas to renovate and revitalize this area and have joined the city in hiring a study of what can be done. The new City Manager, Brian McDougal, is reviewing this new study and is seeking copies of previous studies in an effort to determine what action can be taken in this area. The main roadblock is funding and convincing the free enterprise market to invest in this area of town. Another challenge is the renovation of the area between Gulfway Drive and Proctor. If you do not upgrade the entire area new businesses are not going to invest.
There are islands of beauty in this area. I visited the boardwalk behind the county courthouse. The entrance is elevated to the height of the seawall and there is an elevator or you can take the stairs. When you exit the elevator or at the top of the stairs there is a walkway leading out to the boardwalk. There are benches, flowers, lights and a view of the ship channel and Pleasure Island across the way. It is a great place to take a break and enjoy the view. You might see fishermen, the shrimp fleet, large commercial vessels not to mention the Gulf Coast wildlife. If you bring your fishing pole you can sit on steps near the water and try your luck at Redfish, Speckled Sea Trout, Flounder or any of the other fish that might inhabit these waters. Sometimes the dolphin are cruising the area and entertain you, free.
The campus of Lamar State College - Port Arthur is another beauty spot. The campus is well maintained and landscaped. Along the seawall are homes reminiscent of the lifestyle of Port Arthur in its glory days. The Seafarer’s Center at the end of Proctor on Houston Ave. is made to resemble the train station that started Port Arthur. While the ship channel is the driving force without the railroad Port Arthur would not be here. The old historic County Courthouse has a small water pond in Popeye Park. The County is in the process of rebuilding the park and repairing the pond so it can be filled with plants and fish.
While people are quick to point to this area of our city as an eyesore Port Arthur is not the only city that has a downtown area that needs attention. Many historical cities have had their original shopping area left for larger spaces and corporate owned stores. It is disheartening to listen to radio talk show hosts that badmouth Port Arthur when in fact, our city is one of the most successful on the coast. I’m not saying we don’t have warts but we have beauty marks also. Our industry is some of the largest and most successful in the world, we have new restaurants looking to locate in this city and there are projects in the planning stages that will continue to fuel our growth.
I faced the same type of press when I lived in Pasadena and Garland, Texas. Newer surrounding cities took our residents and badmouthed our schools. Those cities existed because of industry in Garland and Pasadena, like most of the cities in this area exist because of Port Arthur. To offset some of this bad publicity the chamber has started a radio program with the purpose of telling Port Arthur’s story. Our Chairman of the Board Paul Chargois hosts this program every Sunday on the IHeart Radio stations. We will continue to tell the story of a Port Arthur, Texas.
In Port Arthur and Pasadena, Texas there are those people that would push for more money to be spent on advertising to change the perception of the city. It is sad to say but you can’t spend enough money to change people’s perception. You have to show them. The cheapest and most effective way to show them is having pride in your city. I don’t mean that you have to look through rose colored glasses and ignore the problems, I mean you find the positive and be proud of it and show it. We will continue working on the buildings and infrastructure. We will continue to work with Dr. Porterie on making our school system better. We will continue to work with the EDC to attract business to this area but we are also going to educate ourselves on the positive points of Port Arthur and tell everybody that will listen that it is a great place to live and conduct business.
If you want to help us tell the story of Port Arthur call us at the Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce and we will let you help write the next chapter.