CATEGORY: Lafayette County

AUTHOR: MONIQU

OXFORD PLAN BRINGS ON PROTEST RALLY

By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

OXFORD - More than 150 people participated in a Saturday morning rally held in protest of the proposed widening of Oxford's West Jackson Street.

A proposal to five-lane the road from Rebel Drive west to Mississippi Highway 6 would require the elimination of about 300 large trees, destroying a scenic segment of the street.

Bids already have been opened on the first phase of the project, which would five-lane West Jackson from Rebel Drive west for about 4,000 feet to Kalo's Tavern. City officials could decide Tuesday night at a meeting of the Oxford Board of Aldermen whether to award a contract for that work based on the bids.

"There are more people here than I expected, especially after all the bad weather last night," said David Dutton, who coordinated the rally. "Turnout would have been amazing if the sun had been out, I think. This is very encouraging."

Several University of Mississippi students and faculty members attended the rally. A number of teen-agers and children also attended.

"I'm here because I don't think they need to widen the road," said 13-year-old Caleb Fisher, whose parents also attended. "Tourists remember Oxford because it seems pretty nice, with the trees and everything. People can wait another five minutes to get to the mall. Tourists will remember Oxford's trees. They won't remember Oxford as the place where it only took two minutes to get to the mall."

As protesters walked along West Jackson Street, they carried handmade signs with slogans including: "Old dawgs against dozers," "Protect Our Natural Heritage" and "Save the Trees."

Petitions were also circulated at the rally, and participants signed a banner expected to be presented at Tuesday's meeting of the board of aldermen.

Doctoral student Barbara Lowe said an experience in her native McComb was one of the biggest reasons she decided to attend the rally.

"People there opposed a five-laning plan," she said. "I don't want to see Oxford turn into another five-lane atrocity. I don't even understand why this proposal is being considered. The only traffic problem we have is for about 10 minutes in the afternoon. It's not worth the elimination of all of these trees."

Mayoral candidate and Board of Aldermen member William C. Baker said he attended the rally to gauge public opinion on the proposal.

"The more information you have about an issue, the better decision you can make," he said. "Prior to the meeting 10 days ago, only two people expressed opposition. If the people have something to say, they should say it."

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