Letters to the Editor

Downtown dirt

May 17, 2009


To the editor:

When I moved here in 1974, Lawrence was a pleasant town of 35,000-40,000 people with a low crime rate, a “student ghetto” and a nice downtown area. I loved going downtown to shop at the dime stores, buy doughnuts and cookies at Drake’s or Jennings bakeries and hardware supplies at Malott’s. Downtown was the heart of the city, the center of business activities for our local residents.

Today, walk any street downtown and look down at the pavement beneath your feet. Walk through the muraled breezeways. Try walking any of the alleyways between Vermont and New Hampshire, from Sixth to South Park. See the cigarette butts, trash and deteriorating concrete and asphalt.

Our “vibrant” downtown is deteriorating. It is dirty beyond belief. There are too many people, too much traffic — it’s not safe, nor a pleasant place to shop. In the rush to transform downtown from a local shopping district to a money-maker for the city’s treasury, we’ve lost sight of the importance of maintaining its infrastructure, its buildings and its beauty. Why? Small towns across Kansas with fewer resources than Lawrence have created unique shopping and dining spaces that respect the history of the town and give it character.

Lawrence administrators are the caretakers of our city. We, the residents, are its stewards. “Vibrant” downtowns are clean, cared for, healthy places to work and shop. Write some letters. Be part of saving Lawrence’s downtown environment, which has been too long overlooked.


EdenPrairie87 6 years, 5 months ago

"Too many people"--Yes, how dare the people of Lawrence go and enjoy their downtown.

And comparing Lawrence's downtown to other small towns in Kansas is pointless because in most small towns, their downtown IS the only place to shop and eat. And then there are exceptions like Baldwin City and Eudora who began building along the highways and completely neglected their downtowns for years.

I've always felt safe going downtown and he's complaining about trash in the alleys--I see his point but they are alleys used mainly for delivery trucks and employees of the stores.

Uhjh 6 years, 5 months ago

And gas was 28 cents! Times change.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 5 months ago

Pass a law that requires a smoker to turn in 40 butts in order to buy a new pack of 20 ciggies. Then increase the toll every six months.

Practicality 6 years, 5 months ago

Even though I seldom go downtown anymore, I would not trade the "dirty" streets of today for the "dirty" hippies on the streets in 1974.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 6 years, 5 months ago

"... Lawrence, Lawrence, little city of dreams But everything in Lawrence ain't always what it seems You might get fooled if you come from out of town But I'm down by the Kaw, and I know my way around

Too much, too many people, too much (haha ha ha) Too much, too many people, too much!"

reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAnjTO...

Leslie Swearingen 6 years, 5 months ago

I moved here in 1973 and I like it a lot better now. We have perfectly good sidewalks on Mass street you can walk down and avoid the alley. I have no memories of special stores downtown.. I prefer the cafes with the outdoor eating areas and the shops with interesting items in the windows. There is a lot of diversity downtown and it has its own atmosphere. The pocket park next to the museum is wonderful. The areas along the river are certainly a lot better with the levy walk where people bike and jog. I see the new boat house at Burcham Park being a starting point for improving that area.

Phil Minkin 6 years, 5 months ago

I walk downtown early morning 5 days a week and see city employees picking up and vacccuuming regularly. They can only do so much. Responsible bar owners should have outdoor buttcans and have an employee clean up every nite at closing. The best- Free State Brewery the worst-Brothers.

Practicality 6 years, 5 months ago

lol, muti.

You forgot the rampant drug use and the total disregard of morals and decency. Please do not start espousing the virtues of the 70's hippie as a good thing. I think all the LSD you took during the 70's is clouding your memory. The hippies of the 70's are directly responsible for the moral decay that currently exists in our society.

honestone 6 years, 5 months ago

practicality must have been one of the up-right, up-tight kids that got drunk and went around beating up hippies. He wouldn't have anything to do with the corporate thiefs and right-wingers that have put us in the mess we are in now

Tom McCune 6 years, 4 months ago

Hey. Watch it. I used to be one of those dirty hippies, going back to 72. I still miss some of the dirty hippie places we had back then. At least you didn't need to worry about gang bangers from Topeka and KCK carrying concealed machine guns everywhere.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

the smoking ban did put a heck of a lot more butts on the street, and smoke on Mass st.

jumpin_catfish 6 years, 4 months ago

What was the student population in 1974 or the city's for that matter? Times change, the downtown can not service all the needs of a growing population. Dah! Some folks in this town just don't get that fact. The good old days were never as good as they remember anyway.

classclown 6 years, 4 months ago

"Hate is a four letter word."


So is love. As well as hope and free among others.

mapletree 6 years, 4 months ago

Lots of people mention that restaurants/bars should put out receptacles for cigarette butts.

Maybe someone should check into the city's rules that govern what is allowed on sidewalks. I don't think that business owners are allowed to put cans, receptacles, etc out on the sidewalks due to signage and right of way issues, otherwise I think many of them would have done so already. There are a lot of responsible business owners downtown, but sometimes their hands are tied.

temperance 6 years, 4 months ago

practicality: "The hippies of the 70's are directly responsible for the moral decay that currently exists in our society."

Hey old man, go back to Squaresville if you can't dig it. You some kinda' narc? Why are you being such a bummer, Nixon lover?

Catch you on the flip side! I'm phasing . . .

Practicality 6 years, 4 months ago


I knew if I said something about hippies in the 70's they would come crawling back out of the commune. Maybe if one of you "if it feels good do it" and "tune in, drop out" crowd still has any unfried brain cells left, maybe you could remind me of that DA who waged war on you guys back then? What was his name, I want to say something Miller, but for the life of me I can not remember.

We need to bring back the Vigilantes!

pace 6 years, 4 months ago

I too think the litter is getting worse. I carry a bag with me and clean up area's. I also carry handywipes, which are a good thing to use to keep from catching things from anywhere you touch. Good exercise and keeps some trash from eventually hitting our water system. I have also been known to pick on or berate the litter bug who thinks nobody cares. I came in 66, loved it then, love it now. The stores should sweep in front twice a day but they may need to be reminded by their customers. I think more trash containers or cigarette stands are a great idea.

notajayhawk 6 years, 4 months ago

Practicality (Anonymous) says…

"The hippies of the 70's are directly responsible for the moral decay that currently exists in our society."

Chicken or egg.

Multidisciplinary (Anonymous) says…

"Heck, the UK littering laws are so strict, if you cut yourself and you are putting a bandage on, and one of the wrappers falls to the ground, you can be fined…seriously..it happened just recently. The woman sat to bandage her bleeding foot, and while she did so, one blew away and the officer saw it, came over and wrote her up."

How's your foot doing, BTW? ;)

Wonder what the woman could have been fined for if she bled on the sidewalk - improper disposal of biohazardous waste?

I know what you mean, though. It's been a long time since I've been there, but I remember smoking a cigarette on the street in Geneva once - it burned away, and nowhere did I see a trash can or other receptacle, or - despite walking for miles - any cigarette butts. After walking around for some time with the completely burned away butt in my hand, I finally put it in my pocket and took it back to the hotel.

Tom McCune 6 years, 4 months ago


It was Vern Miller, the Attorney General, not the DA. Vern's only saving grace was that when someone complained about streaking, he checked his law books and determined there was no law against naked running on state property (KU). Naked dancing, yes. Vern said that as long as the KU kids just ran naked and didn't dance naked, or smoke dope while running naked, they were safe from him.

BigPrune 6 years, 4 months ago

The hippies I remember from the early 1970's never bathed (or washed their clothes - or never changed them), had lice, and all smelled BAD!

Weren't they great? Of course, wasn't martial law in effect and military personnel carriers roamed the streets and there was an 11:00 PM curfew, and didn't they blow up the union a couple of times, and take over Lawrence High School, and threaten to kill every business owner in town? Yep, they really were wonderful, NOT!

salad 6 years, 4 months ago

Dear letter writer, You are incorrect. I know you think you're right, but you are, in fact, incorrect. Your life will improve once you're able to admitt this to yourself. Just repeat, "I'm wrong" to yourself ten times. Downtown is better now than it's ever been.

Rickyonealku 6 years, 4 months ago

Back in 1975 was my first visit to beautiful Lawrence, Kansas and the down town Mass street experience which then was great. Then the spring of 2006 my daughter and I visited beautiful Kansas University which was her first time. Now she is a Junior and for old dad LOVE taking pictures of Mass street and Douglas County Court House area then uploading all those photos to my screen saver on my computer. And every year since 2006 I see beauty beauty and more beauty to beautiful Lawrence, Kansas.

kmat 6 years, 4 months ago

"mapletree (Anonymous) says… Maybe someone should check into the city's rules that govern what is allowed on sidewalks. I don't think that business owners are allowed to put cans, receptacles, etc out on the sidewalks due to signage and right of way issues, otherwise I think many of them would have done so already."

They can. Bib Daddy C's Tatts always has one outside their shop during business hours.

kmat 6 years, 4 months ago

I'm classed as a hippy by many and I LOVE Slayer!

Jaminrawk 6 years, 4 months ago

Wow, calm down. I work in an industry where I have travelled quite a bit and I think downtown Lawrence is kept up quite nicely. You find cigarette butts everywhere. Maybe if the police enforced larger fines you might see it less, but this IS a college town so you are never going to get rid of the aftermath of Friday and Saturday nights. Still, be thankful you have a downtown as vibrant as Lawrence's. There are many towns with long stretches of vacant windows and no one walking around at all.

gontek 6 years, 4 months ago

Practicality (Anonymous) says…

“The hippies of the 70's are directly responsible for the moral decay that currently exists in our society.”

I believe Rock and Roll music is to blame, and the sex and drugs that go along with it.

farfle (Anonymous) says…

"Lawrence lost its soul 25 years ago. You are JoCo west now. Deal with it."

Lawrence should be so lucky, at least in JOCO we get great, well maintained parks and services for our property tax dollars.

Kirk Larson 6 years, 4 months ago

Lawrence has a great downtown. Go to Manhattan's downtown where you can stand in the middle of Poyntz, the main drag, and be perfectly safe since there is no traffic. I'd rather have a little bustle than zombie dead.

Matt Toplikar 6 years, 4 months ago

I know people don't like all the bickering that goes on on these forums, but after being away from Lawrence for a few years, it's actually kind of great to see. It's not in every town that people care enough to complain about what would otherwise seem like a few meaningless cigarette butts on the ground. Hometown pride-- you gotta love it.

And let me just say to the hippiephobics-- It goes without saying that you're completely full of it, but I have to admit that a modest amount of hippie-bashing can be pretty hilarious.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 4 months ago

Py, I am the first to account for personal responsibility [see my posts on the prolife poll results!].

but clearly as a result of the smoking ban the amount of butts and the amount of irritating smoke on the street skyrocketted.

unfortunately, a lot of sidewalk dining/drinking is already cluttering the sidewalk, and is the default smoking section for each establishment.

jafs 6 years, 4 months ago


Yes, and I remember saying that if the city didn't do something to prevent it, we'd have all the cigarette butts on the sidewalks when the ban was instituted.

RiverCityConservative 6 years, 4 months ago

I was just talking to some old friends this weekend about having seen the Ozark Mountain Daredevils twice at the old Opera House, and when I first came to Lawrence there was a neat place called the Seventh Spirit down in the catacomb-like basement of that building, too. I never can remember the name of the skinny-dipping lake that my younger brother liked swimming at, but I do remember it disappeared when Clinton Reservoir was created in the early 80s. I remember a nice organic restaurant called the Pentimento, near the post office, and that other cool restaurant on the same block where you had to order quickly, eat and move out to make room for the next person in line. I am not sure that anyone in Lawrence in the 70s would have qualified as a "hippie," since that whole movement was over in the rest of the country by the late 60s. Someone said once that Ken Kesey killed the hippie movement by writing about it and popularizing it. I think hair got long in Lawrence and I know I love seeing long-hairs around town and often in prominent business and political and university positions. I have noticed with sadness the crime that has accompanied the enhanced sophistication of what used to be a quaint college town. Of course, there is nostalgia for days gone by, and the truth is that the term "drugs" back then did not include dangerous chemicals like meth and crack. I'm not sure, but maybe the societal problems have come mostly as a result of liquor by the drink, combined with the "war on drugs." I also remember that Vern Miller was mostly concerned about gambling--he raided some clubs in my hometown of Great Bend in the early 70s, and people drove around with "Little Vegas" bumper stickers for a while, soaking up the spotlight...

Matt Toplikar 6 years, 4 months ago

And yet you still read the letter to the editor column from the Lawrence paper-- sounds like you can't get enough of the dream.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.